Global consumption of helium is currently estimated to be around 8 billion cubic feet (bcf) per annum, having increased 2 bcf since 2010.
Analysts forecast helium demand will grow over the next decade at between 6.4% CAGR (IHT Markit) and 9% CAGR (Technavio), well above growth estimates for helium supply.
The average price of bulk liquid helium has increased by over 100% over the past decade. And supply and demand forecasts suggest prices will continue this upward trend into the next decade.
In the United States, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) controls the bulk of the production of helium. Federal helium operations are published on the (BLM) website. The latest BLM auction, in July 19, 2017, sold the 2018 helium allocations at prices ranging from US$ 112-125 per thousand cubic feet (mcf).
The BLM announced its intention in 2013 to auction off reserves until only 3 bcf remained This is expected to happen by 2020 and will remove a significant source of helium supply from the global market.
The United States is the world's leading helium supplier with around 60% share of global supply. Qatar is the second largest producer with around 30% share of global supply.
Algeria, Australia, Canada, Poland, and Russia make up the list of other key producers.
New fields in Tanzania, expansions in Qatar and Algeria, as well as new resources in the US, will all strive to meet growing demand and fill the vacuum left by the BLM.
However, the recent closure of two helium plants in Qatar due to geopolitical tensions in the Middle East, alongside uncertainty created by the impending end of helium supply from the BLM, underline the fragility of helium supply and the need for more reliable sources.
The concentration of production among a handful of countries will continue to be the leading driver of uncertainty of helium supply and volatility.
The European Union has recently added helium to a list of 27 critical raw materials for European industry.
In recent years the US has begun to import helium for domestic consumption. No new North American production has come online to date and demand continues to grow.
The US remains the heaviest user of helium worldwide and the incentives to discover new domestic helium reserves remain strong.
New US helium discoveries with significant production potential, can offer a reliable source of helium to meet the rapidly growing demand.