Companies impacted by the long-running helium shortage may be feeling some relief soon, as Air Products, Lehigh Valley, PA, opened the doors on its new helium production facility in Colorado last week. The plant was part of a plan the industrial and specialty gases company announced last year to think creatively about addressing a persistent supply issue.
The U.S. government's helium supply, managed by the Bureau of Land Management, has been declining each year as its finite reserves are depleted. At the same time, the world’s demand for helium is growing, particularly in high-tech manufacturing and medical applications, as well as other advanced applications.
The new Colorado facility is expected to produce up to 230 million standard cubic feet of helium per year, replacing more than 15 percent of the current BLM reserve helium supply as that system declines. The helium will be liquefied on-site and then transported to Air Products customers.
“People often talk about ‘thinking outside-the-box’, and that is really the case in this instance. This is not just another liquid helium plant, we’re using cutting edge technology to extract and produce helium that would have otherwise been lost,” said Corning Painter, Air Products’ executive vice president and general manager of industrial gases.