Kornbluth: Lifting Qatar embargo should improve helium logistics – but Covid-19 remains an obstacle


Earlier this week, Saudi Arabia announced that it was restoring diplomatic relations with Qatar and immediately lifting its air, land and sea embargo that has been in place for more than three and a half years.

Saudi Arabia’s Arab allies – United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt – are expected to follow suit in lifting the embargo in the near future. Eventually, this should allow helium shipments from Qatar, which produces approximately 30% of the world’s helium, to once again transit (via truck) through Saudi Arabia and the UAE for shipment through the port of Jebel Ali (Dubai).

The Qatar embargo greatly disrupted the supply chain for helium shipments from Qatar when it was implemented back in June 2017, causing a brief shutdown of helium production at Ras Laffan as well as a period of tight helium supply that lasted for several months. While the major helium suppliers who rely on helium from Qatar quickly developed alternate routes to market, it is fair to say that the current supply chain is more complex, more costly, more time consuming and less reliable than the preferred route through Jebel Ali.

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