to understand

Quite simply, the thing is. The noble gas Helium after hydrogen, the second most common Element in the universe. In the case of the nuclear fusion in the Interior of our sun, it is produced constantly and in large quantities. At the same time, there are always warnings that the supply could be scarce. Thus, the United States, the world’s largest helium producer, have been banned, even a couple of weeks ago that private companies can buy supplies from the Texas Cliffside storage field. This, in turn, is one of the most important Helium production facility in the country. But is largely empty.

What’s going on? Raw material experts of the Federal Institute for Geosciences and natural resources (BGR) have the production and market situation in the case of Helium and four other noble gases are now considered in more detail. The results have been presented at a conference in Hanover, Germany. The most important message: Helium is not so scarce as it seems.

Although Helium from both the EU and the United States was rated last as a critical raw material. “It is expected, that will change this assessment in the coming years,” says BGR expert Harald Elsner. In several countries, particularly in Russia, would have currently developed some very large helium projects. “This may in the future compensate for the declining US-American percentage in the helium production.”

Helium is not extracted – unlike the noble gases Neon, Argon, Krypton, and Xenon from the air. Because the concentration is so low, it is separated instead of as a component of natural gas. Over the decades, the United States had been the only producer in the Western world, it is, in the BGR. Meanwhile, Algeria, Qatar, Australia and, most recently, Canada, have resumed the production. Poland and Russia were making Helium, so that the U.S. share of world production last only at 55 percent. Large, untapped deposits exist in Tanzania.

new applications for Xenon

The global volume of production have 2017, with almost 165 million cubic meters. Currently, the cubic meters of Helium, the cost for large customers between 6 and 7 Euro. The inert gas is used in medicine for the operation of a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), but also as a Welding shielding gas, lifting gas for airships and balloons, as well as in research.

MRI scan (file photo)

Considerably more tense than in the case of Helium the Situation is, according to the experts at the noble gas Xenon. This is the rarest of the five investigated noble gases. Worldwide have been made in the past year, around 12,200 cubic meters. Two of the approximately 20 plants in Germany, Linde is located in Unterschleißheim, and in the case of Air Liquide Germany in Krefeld. The world market price for Xenon is currently at 11,000 Euro per cubic meter.

The demand exceeds supply, however, since years. Therefore, the raw material specialists climbs, expect further price. “The reason for this is that for Xenon new application areas are discovered. Due to the increasing demand for this Gas prices,” says Elsner climbing regularly for a few years.

Currently, Xenon, among other things, as light sources, laser gas, in the semiconductor industry, as well as a high-tech anesthetic. Also, for the drives of the satellite it is likely to be increasingly so in the future.

chs.

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