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Why is the cost of helium so high?

Have you ever needed helium for an event, only to find out that the price has skyrocketed? This is due to what experts call “Helium Shortage 4.0,” which started in January 2022 and is ongoing as of October 2023. This shortage has led to not only higher prices but also supply limitations.

In simple terms, there’s less helium available, and what is available has become more expensive. 2023 marks the ninth year of supply deficits within an 18-year period from 2006 to 2023. What makes this shortage particularly noteworthy is that preventive measures were supposed to prevent such a situation. A Russian energy company, Gazprom, was supposed to launch a major natural gas processing plant in Siberia in late 2021, but various issues, including a fire and explosion, have delayed helium production from this plant until at least the second quarter of 2023.

Apart from the Russian supply issues, other factors have worsened Helium Shortage 4.0. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s purifier, which enhances the purity of crude helium, was out of operation for an extended period. This took over 10% of the global helium supply off the market. Additionally, there were maintenance activities in Qatar, reduced production from Algeria due to the war in Ukraine, decreased production in Darwin, Australia, and a fire in a natural gas processing plant in Kansas that produces crude helium. Many things went wrong with helium production in 2022, resulting in a severe shortage. As Russia resumes production, it is expected to contribute 15% to the global supply, which should help balance supply and demand. However, the exact timeline for their full production is uncertain. The good news is that helium allocations are starting to return to pre-shortage levels, offering hope for the helium market to stabilize, and prices are expected to follow suit

-Michael Crenshaw