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Private helium distributors facing pressure as scientific demand for gas continues to rise

Increased demand for helium for scientific use, including by NASA, is putting further pressure on private distributors to meet demands for the natural gas.

Samuel Burton, the field manager for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s helium reserves, recently told Chemical & Engineering News, that the bureau “is seeing increased demand by federal agencies,” NASA included, and added those agencies will be served first in terms of helium allocation.

The Federal Helium Reserve is expected to be used up by approximately 2021, as the federal government removes itself from distribution of the gas.

In addition, major helium distributors started capping how much helium they will sell to buyers, usually using past consumption as the bar. However, the C&EN story states some scientists have only been able to get 75 percent of their normal allocation.

Increased consumption of helium, as well as the supply hiccup in Qatar last year, led to prices going up at the start of 2018.

Originally posted Monday, Apr. 16, 2018

Tags: balloons, helium shortage