BY DAN CANCIANON 5/10/19 AT 11:00 AM EDT www.newsweek.com
A major shortage of helium has begun to make its impact felt across a number of industries, as a combination of dwindling resources and increasing prices take their toll.
The gas, one of the lightest substances in the world, can be harvested from natural underground deposits and from the production of natural gas, in which helium is a by-product. But there are currently no cost-effective ways of artificially producing the gas, which has left a host of sectors scrambling.
While helium usage is widespread, its sources are relatively limited, and the U.S. has provided the lion’s share of the world’s supply for decades. According to Gasworld, more than three-quarters of the globe’s helium is produced across three different locations—Texas, Wyoming and Qatar.
The U.S. will exit the helium business by the end of September 2021, as established by the Helium Stewardship Act of 2013. Also, resources in Texas have dwindled because of a combination of different factors.
Helium production in the U.S. has significantly slowed down and the Bureau of Land Management has been forced to ration its supply, due to political upheaval in the Gulf States
In February last year, Saudi Arabia imposed an economic embargo on Qatar, which effectively took some 30 percent of the global supply off the market.
While helium might be best known as laughing gas and for its use in balloons, it plays a crucial role in a number of different industries, from the aerospace to the medical sector.
It is used in the manufacturing of electronics and semiconductors, and is also used as a cooling agent for magnetic resonance imaging machines.
“It is a serious problem,” Roman Dembinski, an organic chemistry professor at Oakland University, told USA Today. “A shortage and disruption would quench our magnets, so we would be without instruments.”
Experts noted that demand from countries such as China was increasing and the growing development of high-tech manufacturers had also put producers under pressure.
With resources shrinking and demand increasing, prices have sky-rocketed. In September, a government auction carried out by the Bureau of Land Management saw crude helium prices for delivery in 2019 jump 135 percent year on year.
The global shortage has hit a number of companies. Chief among those is Party City, which announced on Thursday that it would close 45 stores, accounting for 5 percent of its locations
The New Jersey-based party supplier said it normally shuts between 10 to 15 stores each year, and the latest round of closures came as it aimed to improve its market performance.
“We’ve made the decision to close more stores than usual in order to help optimize our market-level performance, focus on the most profitable locations and improve the overall health of our store portfolio,” the company’s chief executive James Harrison said in a news release
Harrison, however, also indicated Party City had secured a new helium supplier, which should minimize the fallout from the current shortage.”We believe this new source should substantially eliminate the shortfall we are experiencing at current allocation rates and improve our ability to return to a normal level of latex and metallic balloon sales,” he said.
Helium is the second-most abundant element in the known universe, but it’s hard to capture on Earth because of how easily it floats out of the atmosphere and into space.
Oil companies harvest helium trapped deep beneath the Earth’s surface, in natural gas chambers. Radioactive decay causes uranium rock to disperse helium into natural gas chambers over millions of years. It’s a slow process, and finding the helium can be even more challenging.
Almost every known helium reserve on the planet was discovered by accident, and the helium was merely a byproduct of natural gas harvesting.
The United States has been the largest producer of helium since 1925, thanks to a massive reserve found across Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas — fittingly named the Federal Helium Reserve. But that’s set to close down production in 2021, and scientists are looking for new reserves to replace it.
Helium gas is not flammable and safe for use, reason it is noble gas not like hydrogen. Hydrogen is much more and cheaper than helium in this planet however it is not safety and very important most of countries forbid to use. With the price of helium gas is rising up, but the need of helium products still have too big in market, bad news is most of helium gas are used for Only one time – the wastage of helium gas is very uneconomical,it is very popular for Helium advertising balloons and Airship/Blimp Company, like us. We wasted a lot of moeny on helium before.
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