Qatar is the world’s second-largest exporter of helium.
Qatargas loaded the 10,000th cargo of helium from its Helium-2 plant, the largest production facility in the world, in what has it described as a “significant milestone” on Tuesday.
Located in Ras Laffan, the Helium 1 and 2 plants have been helping the country lead the production of the “completely non-renewable” resource, with a capacity of 2.2 billion standard cubic feet [bscf] per year.
The Helium 2 Plant began operating in June 2013 eight years after the Helium 1 plant started production. Now, Qatar is set to account for at least 35% of the world’s helium with the establishment of the Helium 3 plant this year, increasing its annual production capacity to 2.6 bscf.
“Helium has high value applications in science, medicine and high-tech industries, including semiconductors, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), space exploration and fibre optics. Global demand for helium is forecasted by the industry to continue to grow at 2-3% per annum,” said Qatargas in a statement.
Despite the abundance of helium in the universe, it remains rarely available due to the difficulty of extracting it as it is generated deep underground. The element can only be extracted through a process known as “fractional distillation” that enables the separation of helium from natural gas.
Qatar is known as the world’s second-largest helium exporter in the world, after the US which has been the largest producer since 1952.