US Air Products project to extract helium from CO2

28 October 2013 16:42  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--Air Products will extract helium from a naturally occurring underground carbon dioxide (CO2) source that is being processed by Kinder Morgan CO2 in Colorado, Air Products announced on Monday.

Helium production from the project is expected to begin in the spring of 2015, the US-based specialty gases company said.

Air Products will extract helium from Kinder Morgan’s CO2 stream in Doe Canyon, Colorado, and then return the CO2 to Kinder Morgan, which it uses in West Texas for enhanced oil recovery.

Air Products will take the extracted helium, liquefy it and deliver it to customers.

"This is an innovative project and we see this as an opportunity to leverage our proprietary technology for future CO2 on-purpose helium extraction projects. This is a critical step in finding new sources of helium at a time when there is a global shortage," said Walter Nelson, director  of helium sourcing at Air Products. 

"Many people are aware that helium is a by-product of natural gas processing; however, not all natural gas fields contain helium in high enough concentrations to make it economical for extraction,” he added. “Combine that with the fact that the existing Bureau of Land Management [BLM] helium reserve is a finite supply, and it becomes quite clear that it is essential to always be looking for novel ways to secure more helium. This project demonstrates our commitment to our customers."

Once it is operational, up to 230 million cubic feet/year (mcf) (6.5 million cubic metres) will be produced at the Doe Canyon helium plant, replacing more than 15% of the current BLM reserve helium supply as that system declines, Air Products said.

The US helium reserve has drawn much attention of late.

Earlier this month, President Barack Obama signed into law a bill approved by Congress to continue the federal government’s role in providing helium supplies to industry and the general market.

Unanimously approved by both the House and Senate, HR-527, "The Helium Stewardship Act”, essentially provides that the federal government will continue to operate the helium reserve under existing terms for another year.

After the one-year extension for the existing federal role in operating the helium reserve, semi-annual helium auctions will be held to achieve a more open and competitive purchasing process and ensure a better return for taxpayers, according to the bill.

That process will continue until the federally owned helium reserve is drawn down to some 3 billion cubic feet (bcf) (85 million cubic metres) when public sales will be ended, and that volume will be available only for federal national security and government scientific purposes.

The US government-operated system, the Federal Helium Reserve (FHR) in Texas, provides 30% of the world’s supply of helium and fills more than 50% of US domestic demand.

That system feeds raw helium recovered from natural gas production to six refineries operated by four major industrial gases firms along the FHR pipeline that spans parts of three states – Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas.

By: Jeremy Pafford
+1 713 525 2653

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