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Gazprom opens first of three helium production lines


Gazprom opens first of three helium production lines

Gazprom opened the first of three helium production lines at its Amur gas-processing plant in southeastern Russia earlier this month, thus bringing 20 million cubic metres per year of new helium capacity on-line. The company also commissioned a logistics centre that will feed liquid helium into cryogenic containers for shipping - C&EN

The complex will act to increase the global supply of helium by around 11%, according to helium consultant Phil Kornbluth. When all three lines are brought into operation, Amur is expected to provide 60 million cubic metres of helium per year alongside methane, ethane, and other products. According to Gazprom, the facility will its reach full capacity by 2025.

The opening of the first Amur plant should mark the end of more than 15 years of volatility in the helium market, Kornbluth says. Price spikes, rationed delivery, and disruptions have plagued users ranging from birthday clowns to high-field magnetic spectroscopists.

Helium from Amur joins 11.3 million m3 of new helium capacity opening this year in Qatar. There are also several smaller projects being developed or just starting production, Kornbluth says.

Helium is found in underground deposits, mixed with hydrocarbons, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide. Its production previously was only profitable as a sideline of natural gas extraction.

Rising prices and technological advancements in separation technology like membranes have made helium-focused projects much more lucrative.

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