'How is Helium produced?'
Production: Although Helium is one of the most common elements in the
universe it is a rare gas on earth. It exists in the atmosphere in such
small quantities (less than five parts per million) that recovering it
from the air is uneconomical. Helium is produced as a by-product of the
refining of natural gas, which is carried out on a commercial scale in the
USA and Poland. In these areas natural gas contains a relatively high
concentration of Helium which has accumulated as a result of radioactive
decay of heavy elements within the earth's crust. Helium is supplied to
distribution centres throughout the world in liquid form in large cryogenic
containers. The Helium is filled into liquid containers, gas cylinders and
cylinder packs as necessary.
History of Helium Production: Government involvement in helium conservation
dates to the Helium Act of 1925 which authorized the Bureau of Mines to build
and operate a large-scale helium extraction and purification plant.
until 1960 the federal government was the only domestic helium producer. In
1960, Congress amended the Helium Act to provide incentives to natural gas
producers for stripping natural gas of its helium, for purchase of the
separated helium by the government, and for its long-term storage. With
over 960 million cubic meters (34.6 billion cubic feet) of helium in
government storage and a large private helium recovery industry, questions
arise as to the need for either the federal helium extraction program or the
federally maintained helium stockpile.
In a move which would take the federal government out of the helium business,
Congress passed the Helium Privatization Act (H.R. 873) as part of the
Seven-Year Balanced Budget Reconciliation Act of 1995 (H.R. 2491). Although
the measure died when the President vetoed the Budget Act on December...