Helium markets


While we are only just over halfway through 2006, this year will certainly be remembered as an important year in the helium business. Demand has outstretched supply. Two new sources have come on-stream, but with feed gas and operational problems limiting their output they are yet to have a major impact on the market.

Helium became a major anti-trust issue for both the European Commission and the US Federal Trade Commission following the offer by Linde to acquire BOC, and Taiyo Nippon Sanso (TNSC) acquired a primary supply position to the global market.

So where do we begin? Firstly, we need to look at the demand and uses for helium and what has and will drive demand.

Growth in helium use
Over the past 15 years, demand has mainly been driven by the development of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and the need to cool the magnets to near
absolute zero to become effective. MRI became and still remains the major use of liquid helium. Another driver of demand in the past was the use of helium as a heat transfer agent and carrier gas for fi bre optic production. The other major uses include pipeline leak detection, the leisure industry, electronics, specialised welding and airships.

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