Concerns over supplies lead to plan to extract the gas from carbon dioxide sinks

Worries over global helium supplies have led US specialist gas supplier Air Products to search out new sources of the gas. The company plans to start extracting helium from an underground carbon dioxide sink in Colorado by spring 2015.

Concerns over the cost of helium have been prompted by the sell-off of the US government’s reserves of the gas to pay-off debts the reserve facility had accumulated. This sell-off has worried scientists who depend on the gas for a whole host of applications, such as cooling the magnets used in NMR and MRI machines and for high altitude research balloons.

Air Products will now be working with Kinder Morgan, which is already siphoning carbon dioxide from the sink in Colorado to be used to extract oil from wells in west Texas. The facility at Doe Canyon will separate helium from the carbon dioxide stream and Air Products expects to be able to produce around 6.5 million m3 of helium per year.