Reviews of the Helium Industry

First, the committee recommends that future reviews of the helium industry be commissioned by BLM either (1) in response to drastic increases or decreases in helium capacity or use or (2) regularly, every 5 or 10 years. The BLM should assist this review by improving its methods for tracking helium capacity and use. The following recommended improvements will help ensure the timely identification of important shifts in the industry:

  • Develop and implement a consistent and credible taxonomy of helium uses.

  • Develop and implement better methods for tracking the international helium market.

  • Report helium reserves using the natural gas industry’s classification scheme.

Study of the Depletion of the Reserve

Second, the committee recommends that the BLM study the adequacy of the Bush Dome reservoir as the reserves are depleted. Specific study tasks that should be considered include the following:

  • Determine the optimal size of a federal stockpile of crude helium.

  • Develop models of gas extraction at the Bush Dome reservoir to predict the helium content of future extracted gas.

  • Determine whether the quantity of gas that remains in the Bush Dome reservoir will be adequate to meet future federal needs in the event of a temporary drop in private production.

  • Reassess the pricing structure for the storage of helium at the Cliffside facility so that it more accurately reflects the value of the facility.

Research and Development

Finally, the committee recommends that the Department of the Interior conduct research and development to ensure the continued supply of helium into the future. Goals should include (1) new geological models and exploration technologies, (2) improved helium storage systems, and (3) enhanced technologies to conserve, recycle, and eventually replace helium. The following specific tasks should be considered:

  • Determine the geological characteristics and processes that permit the formation of helium-rich gas fields and develop methodologies and databases to assist in the discovery of these fields.

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