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Helium gone forever by 2010?

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  • Helium gone forever by 2010?

    I was watching Monster Garage the other night. They were making a parade float and referenced the use of helium by the federal government and in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (apparently two of the largest conusmers of helium).

    They then flashed a graphic stating that experts believe the supply of helium to run out by 2010? Really???

  • #2
    I'm not sure how that can be. When you use the gas and are putting it back into the air, it would just need to be seperated again right?? It's like welding, you weld with argon and put it in the air, the gas plants seperate it and sell it back to you. Maybe after use, the helium degrades..I'm not sure on that one and haven't ever heard of this concern before. If this is true, then welding blends with helium should be getting pretty expensive and I don't see any major increases by me yet.

    ??? A-


    • #3
      Here's a link with some info on where helium comes from. Short version: it comes from natural gas.


      • #4
        There is a bit of history about this one...

        There are several ways of getting helium. What most of the world can do is to run air through many stages of an air compressor to cool it off and condense out the other gases. Oxygen condenses out at -184 C, nitrogen at -196 C, and helium at -268 C. This process is very expensive, but as long as there is energy, the supply is practically indefinite.

        Another is natural gas wells in North Texas which have a high concentration of helium. This is the source of the US Helium Reserve, which is what they are talking about. About 34 bilion cubic feet of helium which was built up starting in the 1930's is in the reserve. This was the only supply for years, and the reason the Hindenburg and other non-US dirigibles were filled with hydrogen. I don't know what the current production status of helium is.

        A third method is to fuse deuterium or tritium into hydrogen. This is looked at more for energy production than for helium, but can be used for both. At present, nobody has managed to keep a fusion reaction for more than a fraction of a second, or managed (in a controlled reaction) to get more energy out than they put in. Uncontrolled reactions do get more energy out, but have the minor side effect of raising the temperature to several million degrees and leveling the surrounding terrain. Look for some progress with controlled reactions in the next 50 years, but it remains a curiousity.

        Helium, as one of the noble gases, is extremely stable and will not degrade or change unless inserted into a star. Other noble gases include argon and neon.

        Hope this helps.
        At a certain point in every project, it comes time to shoot the engineers and build the d*** thing.


        • #5
          Helium is not produced by the "Air Seperation" process that gives us Nitrogen, Oxygen, Argon, etc. Helium atoms are light enough to escape the earths gravitational force and float into space. The earths atmosphere contains only about 5 parts per billion of Helium, making its extraction from the atmosphere impractical.

          The majority of Helium production comes from Natural Gas. But not all natural gas. There are areas that have natural gas deposits that contain .3% Helium which makes extraction feasible. In this country that is the Texas Panhandle, Oklahoma, Kansas ans parts of the eastern Rockies.

          One of the largest uses of Helium today is in the semi-conductor field. It is used, in it's liquid form, as coolant. semi-conductors are common in the medical and research industry.

          Here is a link that talks in depth of the upcoming Helium crisis... Helium Shortage

          There have been significant Helium price increases over the past couple years, at a rate 3 to 4 times what other gases have increased. As a distributor we have been warned of possible supply shortages. Our first line of defense in case of a shortage is to shut off the balloon people, next....would be the welding industry....saving the rest for the medical industry.

          Do I think this shortage is real?...YES...Do I think it is looming over our heads right now?...NO. But as we move forward there has to be a rethinking of how we use our dwindling helium reserves or we do stand to run out.


          • #6
            Wow!....lot's of posts while I was researching and typing mine...

            If you are interested in learning more about Helium, and the privatizing of our government reserve, here is a link....Helium, all you ever wanted to know.


            • #7
              BIGGGER ???

              IS THERE ANOTHER OPTION FOR HELIUM welding in the works? with all the mixes out there ther must be another option? perhaps we should do our part to conserve and switch now ?
              thanks for the help
              hope i helped
              feel free to shoot me an e-mail direct i have time to chat. [email protected]
              summer is here, plant a tree. if you don't have space or time to plant one sponsor some one else to plant one for you. a tree is an investment in our planet, help it out.


              • #8
                There is always another mousetrap. Is is always better? No. feasability will be a major issue when the time comes to promote a "replacement".