or more than 7510 L of liquid helium per year.9 Chapter 5 discusses the in-kind program in more detail.

NRC 2000 Report

The final section of the 1996 Act directed that the National Academy of Sciences be retained to review the 1996 Act and to assess its likely effects on the future price and supplies of refined helium. The report from that review, the 2000 Report (National Research Council, 2000),10 concluded, among other things, that the 1996 Act would not have a substantial impact on helium users. The authoring committee found that the helium market was in an extended period of stability and that no drastic increases in the price of helium or shortages of supply had occurred since the mid-1980s. It also found that because the price established by the 1996 Act for the sale of federally owned crude helium was significantly higher than the then-current prices for privately owned crude helium, and because the helium refineries on the Helium Pipeline were under long-term contracts with the natural gas companies establishing the prices they would pay for privately owned crude helium, it was highly unlikely that the refining industry would buy gas from the Helium Reserve, other than as a last resort to meet unanticipated customer demand or to satisfy obligations under the in-kind program to supply the helium needs of federal agencies.

The committee that wrote the 2000 Report made several recommendations. Among those recommendations were the following. First, it recommended that BLM commission reviews of the helium industry if drastic increases or decreases in helium capacity or use occur, but in any event every 5 to 10 years. Second, it recommended that BLM improve its methods for tracking helium capacity and use, so that adequate information would be available to assess important shifts in the industry. Third, it recommended that BLM conduct a study to determine the adequacy of the Bush Dome Reservoir as the reserves were being drawn down and to evaluate whether the quantity of helium that was to remain in the Reserve would be able to meet future federal needs if private production were to drop temporarily. Finally, the committee recommended that the Department of the Interior develop a series of research and development projects to ensure a continued supply of helium.


43 CFR Part 3195. At the committee’s third meeting, BLM representatives confirmed that small-scale research programs are not permitted to participate in the in-kind program because they fall below the minimum usage requirements of the regulations and typically are not contractors with a federal agency. However, as this report was being finalized, BLM representatives indicated that they now believe such researchers are permitted to participate in the in-kind program. Clarification of this point in the language of the regulations would be beneficial in resolving this issue.


This was not the first Academies report on national interests with respect to helium. These issues were also discussed in a 1978 report (National Academy of Sciences, 1978).

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