The global helium business is never far from the headlines and with the market currently crunched, as a backdrop of growing demand is met by an ever-decreasing capacity on the commercial table, industry strives for more information on the future dynamics in this sector.
Helium Shortage 3.0 is widely accepted be in progress, traced back to two of the world’s major suppliers beginning to ration supply to contracted customers in February 2018.
The origins of this latest shortage can be traced even further back, however, to June 2017 and the enforcement of the Qatar embargo – which saw roughly 30% of global supply taken off the market for several weeks and a major disruption to supply logistics.
Though markets temporarily returned to near normal in the weeks that followed, the BLM never discontinued its allocation of crude helium feedgas to the four helium refiners who depend on it, while logistics from Qatar remain challenging to this day.
At the same time, helium demand has been growing. Though only at a few percentage points worldwide, against the backdrop of a tight market this growth becomes a significant increment.
China has driven much of this growth, with Asia now the largest market for helium demand at 2.1 bcf, surpassing the US which has an annual demand of 2 bcf. China alone accounts for around half of Asia’s helium demand and is thought likely to continue to drive growth in the Asia-Pacific region, anticipated to show annual average growth of 5-8% over the next five years.
Many questions remain, therefore, about the future dynamics in the helium business, not least the impact of the rampant China market on a fine line of supply and demand balance.
This will be a topic for discussion at gasworld’s Future-Proofing Industrial Gases Summit 2019 in Singapore.
To be held at the Orchard Hotel, Singapore from 25th-26th June, the event will focus chiefly on the wave of digitisation and automation sweeping through the industry as a result of Industry 4.0 – arguably one of the single biggest megatrends it faces.
But in a closing session on future supply chain dynamics, it will also touch upon the growing market for helium in China and what to expect in the future. Luke Manickam, founder and Director of Malaysia-based LM Intelligas Sdn. Bhd., will discuss this topic and present insights in the future helium supply chain and how this regional growth hub could challenge the way the helium business is geared in the future.
By Rob Cockerill25 April 2019