What’s At Stake When Helium Is In Short Supply

Helium is often a byproduct of natural gas, but it’s expensive to capture it on a large scale.

By Michael MarksMay 14, 2019 11:25 am,

There are many uses for helium: party balloons most often come to mind. But helium has other, more serious and lesser-known, applications, including to cool down the magnets in MRI machines. But there’s a helium shortage right now, and that could have an affect on the many technologies for which helium is essential.

Phil Kornbluth of Kornbluth Helium Consulting says helium is also used in manufacturing semiconductor chips and optical fiber, and in welding. Right now, the federal government stores a large amount of helium in a reserve near Amarillo, but he says it’s been selling off its supply.

“The federal government accumulated a very, very large, strategic reserve of helium,” Kornbluth says. “It’s been selling off that reserve in recent years, and now the government owns only about 10% as much helium as it once did.”

What you’ll hear in this segment:

– Why there’s a shortage of helium

– Why it’s challenging and expensive to capture helium

– How Russia will play a role in replenishing the world’s helium supply


Written by Caroline Covington.