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Selling the Nation’s Helium Reserve
FIGURE 1.6 Crude helium recovered and removed from storage in the Bush Dome Reservoir, 1960-2008. A positive difference between the amount of helium recovered and sold in a given year constitutes an increase (by the amount of the difference) in the amount of helium stored in the Bush Dome Reservoir; a net negative difference constitutes a decrease (by the amount of the difference) in the amount of stored helium. SOURCE: U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management.
helium declined during 2000-2007 at an average annual rate of 2.7 percent.13 Some of this decline reflects improved helium conservation and recycling. At the same time, U.S. exports grew at an average annual rate of 7.9 percent. Average annual growth in U.S. helium exports to Pacific Rim countries from 2000 to 2007 (6.8 percent) exceeded the growth of exports to Europe (5.1 percent).
These shifts in the domestic and foreign markets result in a growing share of U.S. domestic helium being exported. The United States remains the largest single source of crude helium in the world. But the depletion of the Hugoton field, which is the principal source of crude helium for refining facilities connected to the Helium Pipeline, and the relative shifts in the prices of crude helium such that the helium sold by the BLM now costs as much as privately owned helium, mean that a growing share of U.S. “production” of crude helium has consisted of withdrawals of crude from the Bush Dome Reservoir (see Figure 1.7).
The 2000 Report’s discussion of crude helium supply focused largely on supply sources within the United States. The report argued that crude helium production from the Hugoton field would decline and production from the ExxonMobil facility in Wyoming would increase, a forecast that has proven largely accurate. The 2000 Report also mentioned the potential exploitation of crude helium associated with natural gas production in the Wyoming Riley Ridge field, and more recent forecasts