The 2016 worldwide helium market – Helium in surplus, demand flat


The worldwide helium market demand in 2016 is about 5.9 billion cubic feet (Bcf) (see Figure 1). This is flat compared to 2015, and a decline of about 100 million cubic feet (mmcf) from five years ago due to demand destruction and global economic weakness.

Worldwide helium supply is about 6.0 Bcf in 2016. This is a continuation of surplus in supply, which was first triggered in 2014 when new large sources came on-stream in Qatar and Skikda, Algeria in late 2013.

Since 2010, tight global helium supply, caused by planned and unplanned shutdowns at refining plants and reduced operating levels at the BLM Cliffside field as it entered the depletion phase. Lower than planned operating rates and persistent economic weakness across the globe have hindered demand growth in most regions. Demand destruction during this period of tight supply has become permanent in some applications as helium recovery, recycle, substitution, and the significant run-up in prices have permanently eroded demand. In addition, there has not been any new significant helium applications to increase demand. Demand for helium is driven by advancements in technology that need helium, per capita consumption (such as in the balloon business), and by price. Supply volumes in 2010 were at about 6.0 Bcf when the BLM and Hugoton refiners in the US were operating close to effective capacity as well as overseas plants.

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