Natural gas reservoirs in the US contain an estimated 306 billion cubic feet of recoverable helium.

That’s according to a new report released today (28th Sep) from the US Geological Survey (USGS) which highlights the US’ leading role in the marketplace, having produced approximately 44% of the total global helium production in 2020.

Unveiling some promising statistics, the USGS publication marks its first-ever estimate.

On the release, Sarah Ryker, USGS Associate Director for Energy and Mineral Resources, said, “The helium assessment is a perfect application of our long-standing research on geologic reservoirs ranging from natural gas resources to carbon dioxide storage potential.”

“This publicly available assessment will provide an unbiased estimate of the remaining volume of helium that private markets can rely on.”

Such publication could be seen very promising due to an emerging worry that North America may have to become heavily dependent on importing helium from Russia and Qatar given the winding down of the US Bureau of Land Management helium systems.

Read more: Race to find North America sources

Used in a variety of applications such as medical imaging, semiconductor manufacturing, laser welding, aerospace, and defence and energy programmes, high demand for the gas will undoubtably be around for the foreseeable future.

According to USGS, almost all commercial helium supplies come from the production of natural gas. As the natural gas is pumped to the surface, it brings other gases such as helium along with it. The helium can then be captured and stored separately from the natural gas.

USGS tracks helium production, both in the US and globally, I its annual Mineral Commodity Summaries. These estimates have included both production from private wells and releases from the Federal Helium System.

All estimates published in the report were undertaken by the USGS under the direction of the Helium Stewardship Act of 2013.