Waiting for Amur – what’s next for helium markets?


Since Covid-19 took a chunk out of helium demand and brought Helium Shortage 3.0 to a rather abrupt end in February 2020, there has been a relative lack of headline events impacting helium markets. The market has seen sufficient supply, the end of steep price increases and no large new sources have entered the market.

After experiencing a demand reduction of as much as 25% during Q2 of 2020, the majority of the reduced demand has returned and helium markets are in relative balance during the early part of 2021. While certain applications, including party balloons, diving/offshore gases and MRI have still not fully recovered from the impact of Covid, other sectors, such as electronics and aerospace are thriving. The recovery of helium demand seems to be tracking the overall economic recovery and it could be another year or so before helium demand has fully recovered to pre-Covid levels.

While underlying supply and demand are now in reasonable balance, that does not mean that the industry has not been challenged to maintain reliable supply for helium users. As this article is being written, there are considerable Covid-related shipping bottlenecks, with the most severe delays affecting the Pacific ports of North America. With cargo ships queuing up for much longer than normal at West Coast ports, shipments from the US to Asian markets have been delayed, causing supply outages in some instances. These port bottlenecks could linger for at least the next few months.

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