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Who knows? There is a global lack of helium – and it could drop more than balloons



From the southwestern Saskatchewan area, the solution appears on a little-discussed problem-a gap in the global supply chain of helium.

In recent years, while fears of helium scarcity have been aroused, researchers have traveled to the Canadian heart and drilled deep into the ground in search of helium; and at least one company has already begun to commercially produce gas.

Party City is just the tip of the iceberg

Nicholas Snyder, executive director of North American helium

The effects of the helium pinch concentrated earlier this month when Party City, headquartered in New Jersey, announced that it had raised prices in certain balloon categories compared to the "helium wind". His executive director said that "Mother Nature" would determine whether there was enough helium to meet the company's demand; and he declined whether prices would ever fall.

People come out of the Party City store with balloons in Miami in Florida. Party City has announced it will close 45 stores in 2019 due to the global lack of helium.

Raedle / Getty Images

Balloon balloons, however, make up only a small percentage of the helium market; and its use in magnetic resonance, or MRI, machines, space exploration, semiconductors and other technologies has used wider concerns that a sudden jump in prices could disturb more than selling balloons – and Instagram and other social media posts for which important balloons are important.

"Party City is just the tip of the iceberg," said Nicholas Snyder, executive director of North American Helium, who shares his time between New York and Calgary, and whose company is investigating in Saskatchewan near the border with Montana.

Snyder said his company's goal was to start commercial helium production within two years. He claimed that his company discovered the first new helium fields in decades, and that it had the ambition to start producing about one percent of the world's supply within two years, gradually increasing that number.

Snyder estimated that the company has already spent tens of millions of dollars on research, and that it will spend tens of millions on plant construction and future research.

"We have really focused on not just one deposit, but a field, but a long-term production helium in Canada," he said.

We were the first crazy people to break through a hole in the ground because of helium

Jeff Vogt, Executive Director of Weil Resources Group in Richmond, Virginia

Of course, his claims that he is the first of anything – the helium in Saskatchewan does not stop.

"We were the first crazy people to break through the hole in the country because of helium," said Jeff Vogt, executive director of Weil Resources Group of Richmond, Virginia, who started producing a small amount of commercial helium near Mankota, Saskatchewan. .

His company is now exploring nearby Albert.

Although helium is not completely scarce, it is generally a by-product of the production of natural gas or liquefied natural gas, and its value in relation to these products is small.

"I heard it described it as a beetle at the top of a dog's tail," said Phil Kornbluth of Kornbluth Helium Consulting, a market analyst sitting on a North American helium board. "It's not a big deal."

He estimated that the current market size is now $ 6 billion after prices rose dramatically in 2019.

However, since most of the production is related to other gases, supply can not be easily increased to meet demand, and Kornbluth said the market is currently lacking.

Goodyear released helium from the last fictitious fleet fleet in 2017.

AP Photo / Eric Risberg, File

"I have not heard that any semiconductor laboratories are short-circuited or that the missiles are closed," Kornbluth said, but added that prices have risen and that all users do not receive full distribution.

Much of the increase in prices stems from the fact that the US federal government sold the stock that originally started in the early 20th century, when blimps were still widely used.

Snyder said his company sells helium stocks for more than $ 500 per thousand cubic feet, which is almost 80 percent higher than the reported $ 280 price at the latest auction of the US federal government.

Both Snyder and Vogt describe their search for finding and producing helium in almost mythical terms: gravity can not hold it. Once it escapes into the atmosphere, it disappears forever.

"It's about the geological capture of a molecule that floats up to the sun," said Vogt.

Party party members say it's easy to understand why helium is so high.

"Balloons are the fastest, cheapest and most elegant way to decorate the room," said Mel Grevler, founder of Party City Supply Depot Ltd, a store in Thornhill, Ontario.

So far, Grewler says he managed to avoid hiking balloon prices by locking a helium contract a few years ago when the fears of shortage emerged for the first time.

Asked what would happen if helium became too expensive for balloons, Grewler would not skip the rhythm.

"It would be a crisis," he replied.

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