27. May 2020 | 16:35 CET
Air Liquide, NEL ASA, RHC Royal Helium Corp. - Helium replaces hydrogen
Helium is a chemical element and is lighter than air. It belongs to the pure gases, is colourless, odourless, tasteless and is generally regarded as non-toxic. Because of these characteristics, helium is already replacing hydrogen in industrial use. However, experts warn of a global shortage, as the supply of this strategic raw material has fallen to its lowest level in 20 years.
time to read: 1 minutes by Mario Hose
Use in many areas
Helium is mostly known to people as a filler for balloons. When you exhale helium while speaking, you get the Mickey Mouse voice. But the pure gas is also used in magnetic resonance tomography or better known as MRT in the medical field to cool the superconducting magnet. In space travel, helium is used to regulate the pressure of tanks. The biggest consumer of helium is NASA. In weather balloons and zeppelins the explosive hydrogen was replaced by helium for safety reasons.
Need of strategic importance
Germany is one of the world's largest consumers and recently ranked fifth in the world. Air Liquide trades with helium and maintains intermediate storage facilities to ensure the supply. In mobility, hydrogen is offered by plants of e.g. NEL ASA. Helium is usually extracted from the ground as a gas. However, extensive exploration is necessary before this can be done.
Exploration in Canada
RHC Royal Helium Corp. in Canada is reportedly one of the largest holders in North America with exploration leases of over 400,000 acres. In an announcement today, the company reported its collaboration with the Saskatchewan Research Council. Exploration work was already announced last week.
Cooperation offers potential
Andrew Davidson, Royal's CEO, said: "The goal is to develop and process Saskatchewan helium and associated inert gases right here in the province, producing high value, end-use products. Royal, a Saskatchewan-rooted helium exploration and development company, and SRC, Canada's second largest research and technology organization, share the vision of working together to advance a new industry for the Province. Saskatchewan is a province known to have a wealth of natural resources and Royal believes that the development and in-province refinement of helium and associated inert gases represents a new, high value business opportunity for its shareholders and the province of Saskatchewan".