Amid worldwide shortages of helium, a gas that is increasingly being used for medical and technological purposes, the opening of a new facility in Ras Laffan has made Qatar one of the world’s top suppliers.
RasGas Helium 2, which went online a few weeks ago, is the largest helium refining facility in the world, producing some 1.3 billion cubic feet of helium a year. Combined with RasGas’ existing Helium Plant 1, Qatar should be able to meet a quarter of the world’s liquid helium demands at least for the next 20 years, Qatar’s Ministy of Energy and Industry said.
In a statement, Dr. Mohammed bin Saleh Al Sada added:
“We are today the largest exporter and the second largest producer of helium in the world.”
Qatar has been recovering helium from its natural gas liquefaction units for decades, according to Air Liquide, which has signed on to purchase half of what the Gulf country produces.
The element is becoming increasingly sought-after for use in MRI scanners, semiconductors, fiber optic cables, air-bag production and professional diving. It is also being used in space exploration and for scientific research.
But because it is often found trapped in deposits of natural gas, the element is expensive to extract, purify and utilize commercially.
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Credit: Photo courtesy of RasGas