The Helium Summit 2018 opened last night with a great social mixer at the Marriott Marquis, Houston, Texas. The summit presentations are to begin this morning.
Helium is important to the energy industry because of its vast applications. Helium is used as a super coolant in Magnet Resonance Imaging, Nuclear Magnetic Resonance spectroscopy, power transmission, mass spectroscopy, etc. It is also used in arc welding, pressure purging, and metal thermal spraying.
This conference is important because helium is currently in short supply and is expected to reach a critical state soon. The main source of helium is natural gas that is pulled from the earth. It is generated in the ground via radioactive decay. Obtaining helium via cryogenic distillation, only, is not economically viable according to experts at the mixer.
I was told by sources that the supply disruption is caused by the transfer of helium production from the Bureau of Land Management (the main source in the USA) to private industry. The process has not been smooth and the transfer is behind the pace of demand. Sam Burton, from the Bureau of Land Management, is to speak today at 9:30 am, and give more insight into the problem. Check out their link: https://www.gasworldconferences.com/conference/helium-summit-2018/