The global helium business has seldom been far from the headlines in the last half-decade. The industry endured a long and severe supply shortage from 2011-2013 (Helium Shortage 2.0) and though it has been through periods of recovery and equilibrium in the years since, the business is still often on the edge of imbalance.
The market experienced a high-profile reminder of this just last year. While short-lived at just a three-week shutdown, a feared shortage due to the abrupt Qatar embargo situation in summer 2017 sent shockwaves through the market and highlighted a glaring lack of a Plan B in the helium supply chain.
Qatar supply accounts for about 32% of worldwide demand; when spare capacity is considered, this is at least 25% of worldwide helium capacity. The Saudi Arabian-led embargo of Qatar created a major logistical challenge in getting product out of Qatar to world markets, and forced a temporary shutdown of the two plants in Ras Laffan Industrial City (Qatar I & II).
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