Helium prices spike 135% in US federal auction

Helium prices were bid up 135% from last year's auction when the US Bureau of Land Management held its 2019 auction.

Gasworld reports that the average price fetched at the auction, which was held last week in Amarillo, Texas, was $279.95 per million standard cubic feet compared to $160.64Mscf a year ago.

The BLM began auctioning its helium and related property and equipment earlier this decade. The BLM has been directed to sell off all its helium assets by 2021.

The US Bureau of Land Management operates and maintains a helium storage reservoir, enrichment plant, and pipeline system near Amarillo, Texas. The reserve is close to gas fields in southwest Kansas, Oklahoma and the Texas panhandle that contain high amounts of helium, which is separated from natural gas as a byproduct. Helium is collected, piped and injected underground.

Helium is used in the testing of rocket engines, welding, commercial diving, and production of semiconductor chips. The element’s ability to reach very low temperatures attracts many commercial and institutional users who conduct magnetic resonance imaging and other scientific applications. Other industries depend on helium’s lifting powers for operating weather and party balloons.

The BLM says that its crude helium plant meets 42 per cent of US demand and 15 per cent of global demand.

CORRECTION: Average price increase was 135 per cent increase, not 35 per cent as originally reported. Story is updated. 

Written with material from the BLM news releases. Creative Commons image of clown courtesy of Randen Pederson