Where does helium come from?

Although my Dad lives in the States and I live in Malaysia, I talk to him by Skype every week. Dad is in his mid-eighties, grew up in rural West Virginia and spent his career with one of the 'three letter' intelligence agencies. He's a smart guy within his field but, as you would expect, not so smart about other fields. Anyhow, during the course of our last conversation, he asked me how helium was manufactured? I thought about it for a second and told him I really didn't know!

We all know that helium is a naturally occurring element and is present in our atmosphere, but how is it processed and made available to industry and the public. Thanks to the Internet, I did not need to revisit the Dewey Decimal System and go to the local library (just the fact that I know what the Dewey Decimal System even is, dates me).

The vast majority of the helium utilized in industrial processes, specialized welding, 'lighter than air' airships, and children's balloons, among other uses, comes from the natural gas refining process.

This just goes to show that many of the things we take for granted are by-products of the oil and gas industry. For those that believe that we need to wean ourselves off of fossil fuels, they will need to consider weaning ourselves off of the by-products of fossil fuels as well. I wonder if they have factored this into their models? 

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1 hour ago, Douglas Buckland said:

Although my Dad lives in the States and I live in Malaysia, I talk to him by Skype every week. Dad is in his mid-eighties, grew up in rural West Virginia and spent his career with one of the 'three letter' intelligence agencies. He's a smart guy within his field but, as you would expect, not so smart about other fields. Anyhow, during the course of our last conversation, he asked me how helium was manufactured? I thought about it for a second and told him I really didn't know!

We all know that helium is a naturally occurring element and is present in our atmosphere, but how is it processed and made available to industry and the public. Thanks to the Internet, I did not need to revisit the Dewey Decimal System and go to the local library (just the fact that I know what the Dewey Decimal System even is, dates me).

The vast majority of the helium utilized in industrial processes, specialized welding, 'lighter than air' airships, and children's balloons, among other uses, comes from the natural gas refining process.

This just goes to show that many of the things we take for granted are by-products of the oil and gas industry. For those that believe that we need to wean ourselves off of fossil fuels, they will need to consider weaning ourselves off of the by-products of fossil fuels as well. I wonder if they have factored this into their models? 

interesting!

Party City is having some struggles as apparently there is a helium shortage. But I guess there are more noble uses it there as well such as MRIs. This article has some good basic info about helium. 

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.nbcnews.com/news/amp/ncna1007151

 

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3 hours ago, Douglas Buckland said:

The vast majority of the helium utilized in industrial processes, specialized welding, 'lighter than air' airships, and children's balloons, among other uses, comes from the natural gas refining process.

Thant's it. Ban balloons now! They're made from resin that's oil-derived, too, right? Keep 'em in the ground. Kids can play with pig bladders or something. Organic.

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(edited)

33 minutes ago, Marina Schwarz said:

Thant's it. Ban balloons now! They're made from resin that's oil-derived, too, right? Keep 'em in the ground. Kids can play with pig bladders or something. Organic.

I think there are other FF based things we will miss before balloons... 

Edited by Rasmus Jorgensen
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True but their disappearance won't be funny, unfortunately. I don't want to make fun of single-use syringes and other medical materials and devices, not to mention heart valves and contacts.

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6 hours ago, Marina Schwarz said:

True but their disappearance won't be funny, unfortunately. I don't want to make fun of single-use syringes and other medical materials and devices, not to mention heart valves and contacts.

The ability of plastic to resist acids and bases is legendary. Also imagine how inconvenient it would be (and the expense) if all hypodermics were made (again) from stainless steal. And given that expense, the reuse rather than recycling. AIDS resurgence anyone? 

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52 minutes ago, Ward Smith said:

The ability of plastic to resist acids and bases is legendary. Also imagine how inconvenient it would be (and the expense) if all hypodermics were made (again) from stainless steal. And given that expense, the reuse rather than recycling. AIDS resurgence anyone? 

I was going to say that, birth control and STD and HIV prevention will be out the door!!!

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11 hours ago, Douglas Buckland said:

Although my Dad lives in the States and I live in Malaysia, I talk to him by Skype every week. Dad is in his mid-eighties, grew up in rural West Virginia and spent his career with one of the 'three letter' intelligence agencies. He's a smart guy within his field but, as you would expect, not so smart about other fields. Anyhow, during the course of our last conversation, he asked me how helium was manufactured? I thought about it for a second and told him I really didn't know!

We all know that helium is a naturally occurring element and is present in our atmosphere, but how is it processed and made available to industry and the public. Thanks to the Internet, I did not need to revisit the Dewey Decimal System and go to the local library (just the fact that I know what the Dewey Decimal System even is, dates me).

The vast majority of the helium utilized in industrial processes, specialized welding, 'lighter than air' airships, and children's balloons, among other uses, comes from the natural gas refining process.

This just goes to show that many of the things we take for granted are by-products of the oil and gas industry. For those that believe that we need to wean ourselves off of fossil fuels, they will need to consider weaning ourselves off of the by-products of fossil fuels as well. I wonder if they have factored this into their models? 

https://phys.org/news/2010-08-world-helium-nobel-prize-winner.html

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Most of the world’s helium currently comes from long-ago discovered natural gas fields in the United States which are nearer to the end of their production life than the beginning. The other producers are Qatar, Algeria, Australia, Russia and Poland.

The helium price remained at a low level since the US decided to sell the stocks accumulated during the Cold War Signed into law in 2013, the Helium Stewardship Act mandated the disposal of all American helium reserves by Sept. 30, 2021. At such price levels  there is no real incentive to search for new reserves.

Only a few gas reserves have an helium content high enough to be interesting for helium production. Currently there are only a dozen of producers.

 

WORLD HELIUM OUTPUT:
United States: 55%
Qatar: 32%
Algeria: 6%
Australia: 3%
Russia: 2%
Poland: 1%
Rest of the world: 1%

HELIUM USES:
MRI Scanners: 20%
Welding: 17%
Scientific use: 10%
Balloons: 8%
Pressurizing: 6%
Cryogenics: 4%
Controlled atmospheres: 3%
Breathing/saturation diving: 3%
Other uses: 29%

LARGEST HELIUM SOURCES:
Shute Creek Gas Plant, Fontenelle, Wyoming
BLM Federal Helium Reserve, Amarillo, Texas
Ras Laffan Industrial City, Qatar

 

Source : https://torontosun.com/news/world/out-of-gas-production-difficulties-choke-world-helium-supplies

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There is a massive He shortage, and yeah it comes from gas.

The local university and its hospital use so much they are building their own cryogenic facility so they can reuse as much as possible.

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3 hours ago, ceo_energemsier said:

I was going to say that, birth control and STD and HIV prevention will be out the door!!!

Condoms are generally made from natural latex. Those allergic generally choose lambskin.

Synthetic condoms are actually more likely to break.

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4 hours ago, Ward Smith said:

The ability of plastic to resist acids and bases is legendary. Also imagine how inconvenient it would be (and the expense) if all hypodermics were made (again) from stainless steal. And given that expense, the reuse rather than recycling. AIDS resurgence anyone? 

Most hospital instruments are cleaned, autoclaved, and reused.  Ok not most, but the majority of surgical instruments.

Edited by Enthalpic
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11 hours ago, Marina Schwarz said:

True but their disappearance won't be funny, unfortunately. I don't want to make fun of single-use syringes and other medical materials and devices, not to mention heart valves and contacts.

Heart valves are generally made from metal and silicone - again not oil. Alternatively, the valves come from animals.

Good grief people - not everything "plastic like" is made from oil.

Edited by Enthalpic

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13 minutes ago, Enthalpic said:

Heart valves are generally made from metal and silicone - again not oil. Alternatively, the valves come from animals.

Good grief people - not everything "plastic like" is made from oil.

Some of those silicone are no longer used, mostly PTFE (plastic)  and a variety of plastics are used in cardiovascular procedures as well as other prosthetics, hip, shoulder, knee joints, just to name a few , not to forget composites as well as hybrid materials and hybrid techs . Major breakthroughs in hybrid cell tech-stem cell are coming fast!

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14 minutes ago, ceo_energemsier said:

Some of those silicone are no longer used, mostly PTFE (plastic)  and a variety of plastics are used in cardiovascular procedures as well as other prosthetics, hip, shoulder, knee joints, just to name a few , not to forget composites as well as hybrid materials and hybrid techs . Major breakthroughs in hybrid cell tech-stem cell are coming fast!

No doubt hospitals love plastic, I bet a single nurse on one shift goes through pounds of the stuff.

Ceramic and metals are favorites for joints; plastic can't handle the wear.

Don't get me wrong, I think plastic is great - especially highly fluorinated ones like Teflon; I just get tired when so many here seem to assume everything is made from oil.

We are dependent on the energy from oil, not oil itself.  "Petrochemicals" are just organic chemicals we could make, provided we had cheap clean energy.

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8 hours ago, Enthalpic said:

Heart valves are generally made from metal and silicone - again not oil.

I don't think so, Google told me. Polytetrafluoroethylene is one of the words I came across.

7 hours ago, Enthalpic said:

We are dependent on the energy from oil, not oil itself.  "Petrochemicals" are just organic chemicals we could make, provided we had cheap clean energy.

Just a tiny little detail, right? Right.

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13 hours ago, Ward Smith said:

Also imagine how inconvenient it would be (and the expense) if all hypodermics were made (again) from stainless steal.

And that's just hypodermics. Now add all the single-use stuff used in labs... and other places where sterility is essential.

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This discussion seems a little out of whack to me. The overall point to me is that there are some oil based "things" we can do without and some we can't.... Why not just take the low hanging fruits? I don't think anybody sane thinks that all FFs should be kept in the ground, but reducing consumption by making small lifestyle changes shouldn't really be a big problem... 

I will therefore start off by comitting to NOT have any balloons at my daugthers upcoming 4 year birthday. I actually think that she will be fine... 

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