Recommendation: 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.

BLM should assist this continual 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.

The Helium Privatization Act of 1996 stipulates that the Federal Helium Reserve should eventually stabilize at 0.6 billion scf (17 million scm), which is approximately a 2-year supply at current demand levels. The committee believes that a study is required to determine whether this is an optimal long-term supply and whether this quantity of gas can remain in the Bush Dome reservoir at sufficient concentrations to be available for future refining.

Recommendation: The committee recommends that 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 Programs

To ensure the continued supply of helium into the future, research and development should be conducted in three main areas.

Recommendation: The committee recommends that the Department of Interior conduct research development to ensure the continued supply of helium into the future. Goals for this research and development 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.

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