With uptick of natural gas exploration and “recovery” happening, you have to wonder if anyone is bothering to look for helium in it? And I’m referring to the Marcellus shale formation in particular. Wouldn’t it be nice for some forethought here and try to recover some of the helium that may be lost. Helium is a non-renewable resource and is critical to many industrial sectors, including superconductor applications.
The US has held helium in reserve since 1925. Helium extraction has been most fruitful from gas wells in the western states. The Helium Privatization Act of 1996 has resulted in the release of the helium reserve to the private sector at a federally mandated price. The FY2011 price is$75.00 per thousand cubic feet.
According to the BLM, the agency that manages the strategic reserve, their enrichment facility in Amarillo, TX, can produce 6 million cu ft per day of crude helium at ca 80 % purity. The Amarillo plant provides crude He to refiners who polish it to the necessary level of purity for the end user.