Singapore-based Roland Kuchler said he thinks the helium market will be fairly balanced for the next 10 years at gasworld’s Asia-Pacific virtual event today.

In his presentation, Kuchler, Head of Business Development for Helium and Gas, Asia-Pacific at Uniper Global Commodities, said when making a forecast for the coming years, we need to look at new supply on the one side, and demand expectation on the other.

“Overall, I’m expecting good, continued good growth for helium demand driven by high tech applications like the semiconductor industry. But I’m also expecting to see more helium demand from other areas which are not consuming as much helium currently, for example in the aerospace applications, but also, for example, from nuclear power plants,” he told event attendees.

“To make demand projections at the moment, this is certainly very challenging. Projections for this year and for next year, have been totally off the charts. However, as soon as the market returns to some kind of normal, I’m expecting the helium demand growth in the range of 2-3% per annum on average, for the next 10 years.”

“Asia will certainly be an engine for this helium demand growth. Currently, the Asian markets account for approximately one third of the helium demand. I expect this market share to continue to grow over 40% by 2030, so new supply will be needed to meet this extra demand.”

When adding up new supply from the proposed new sources, and also taking into account existing and declining production and matching this with his expected demand growth, Kuchler said he expects the market on average for the next 10 years to be fairly balanced.

“Certainly, there will be timing and differences between some years. There will be some years when supply comes online and those years, they will show potentially more supply again than the demand growth in that year. But over the period of time, over the next 10 years until 2030, I expect the market to be fairly balanced,” he said.

Reliability

Another important aspect in the helium market has been the reliability, Kuchler said.

“Helium, as opposed to some other commodities, has very little storage and bunkering capabilities. It is almost like electricity, once it is produced, it has to be used at the spot. This makes it very vulnerable for short term events,” he told event attendees.

“I do see a need to make helium, the product, more reliable and more secure. Certainly, this has been an issue with customers in the past and it has also led to demand destruction in the past because the helium product wasn’t available.”

“Having more sources of supply and new supply – a more balanced supply/demand situation – will help to make the product more reliable in the future. Also, I do believe we will see the need for more storage solutions to add helium storage as a backup reserve.”

2021 and beyond

What does Kucler expect for 2021 and beyond?

“For 2021, it certainly will depend on the pace of the demand, on new supply coming online and existing system production. I am positive demand recovery will continue and that we will see demand numbers close to pre-Covid levels very soon, and certainly here for the Asian region,” he said.

“The timing of new supply coming online is a bigger question mark. It is expected that the vast majority of this new supply is already contracted long term, so any delays in the startup could easily lead to a renewed market tightening and certainly more volatility.”

“Therefore for 2021, I believe because of this uncertainty, more volatility. My guess would be the demand recovers before a new supply will come online.”

“Beyond 2021, I do see a need for more diversified supply portfolios and more flexibility. The helium demand is truly becoming more and more global. Supply sources are spread across different regions worldwide.”

“Also, demand areas are popping up in different regions as well, so our long term outlook for helium remains positive.”