A friend from western Pennsylvania was showing me photos from a recent trip to his native land. He was stunned at the extent to which natural gas infrastructure was creeping into the countryside.  Former neighbors and distant cash poor/land rich family members were cashing in the family sod for piles of lucre offered by the gas barons.  All aboard the good ship Marcellus. And if you missed that boat, the USS Utica is right behind it.

So,some of the eastern states are full of gas? It makes one wonder if the gas holds much helium?  Helium is very important as most readers of this blog will know. Helium’s low boiling point makes for a useful low temperature thermostat bath for superconductors. Helium sits within nested Dewars in NMR cryostats, quietly bubbling into the atmosphere, where it begins its random walk to the cold vacuum of space.  In exchange for tipping protons in the rotating frame, we send helium atoms back into the cosmos.

Helium supplies were interrupted recently with the maintenance shutdown of a plant in Wyoming.  This square western state also blows gas. Tremendous amounts of it. The sweetening process for all of this gas produces massive amounts of sulfur byproduct. 

It is not uncommon for Th’ Gaussling to sit at the rail intersection in his Colorado town and count rail cars clacking south in the dark of night, all full of molten sulfur from that other square state.  I have counted as many as 85 cars in one train all stencilled with “Molten Sulfur”.  All headed to, I presume, somewhere near the Gulf coast for, perhaps, sulfuric acid production.

I think we users of helium need to be a bit more vocal, or more curious at least, about the strategic reserves of helium. A lot of technology and sevices rely on it.  Has anyone looked at the Marcellus and Utica reserves for helium??

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