10 February 2011, 14:54

Russia to become the World’s biggest helium exporter

Russia to become the World’s biggest helium exporter
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To quote a Bloomberg story “Russia, already the largest producer of crude oil and natural gas, is weighing up plans to become the biggest supplier of helium the inert gas vital for medical magnetic resonance scanners that are the biggest consumers of this gas, which is also used in welding tools and manufacture of rocket fuel.

To quote a Bloomberg story “Russia, already the largest producer of crude oil and natural gas, is weighing up plans to become the biggest supplier of helium the inert gas vital for medical magnetic resonance scanners that are the biggest consumers of this gas, which is also used in welding tools and manufacture of rocket fuel.

The Bloomberg story appeared after reports that the U.S. has started selling it reserves from storage of this gas. While helium is the universe’s most abundant element after hydrogen, supply on earth is limited to natural gas reservoirs. The U.S., the largest supplier today, is selling a federal stockpile maintained during the Cold War. Global demand may rise 2 to 3 percent a year over the next five years, and Russia is poised to increase its extraction in remote gas fields in Eastern Siberia that are helium rich and could hold a third of the world’s remaining resources.

Russia may take the place of the currently biggest supplier of helium, said Andrei Korzhubayev professor at the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences who helped draft the country’s energy strategy to 2030. “Eastern Siberia can open the entry to that market.”

Today, Russia lags behind the U.S., Algeria and Qatar, where Exxon Mobil Corporation. and industrial gas producers Linde Group and Praxair Incorporated have invested in capacity. Qatar is expected to open the world’s biggest production plant in 2013.

With time Russia may well be able to catch up, because its gas reserves hold a higher proportion of helium and the fields are close to Asian markets, where according to U.S. sources, demand is growing faster.

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