A Ballooning Crisis: Technical and Policy Recommendations on the

Report
A Ballooning Crisis:
Technical and Policy
Recommendations on the
Helium Shortage
Emma Motl
Honorary WISE intern 2012
August 1, 2012
Helium Shortage
Overview
Helium shortage existed since 2006
Helium has numerous applications
Federal Helium Reserve Program has existed since
the 1960s
Current legislation may determine the future of this
finite resource
Helium History
Interest began in WWI for defense
Continued use of Helium after WWI lead to the
formation of the Bush Dome Reservoir/Federal
Helium Reserve Program
People lost interest in helium towards the end of the
1900’s, but it has since regained importance for
science and technology
Federal Helium Reserve will be liquidated in 2013
without updated legislation1
1Selling
the Nation’s Helium Reserve. Washington, DC. National Academies, 2010.
Uniqueness of Helium
Liquefies at lower temperature than all other
elements6
Chemically inert
Highest specific heat capacity of any gaseous
element
Invisible- cannot be rendered radioactive7
6Energy
7Mark
Critical Elements. Washington, DC. APS, MRS, 2009.
Haynes’ Statement. House Helium Hearing. 7/20/12
Uses of Helium
Reisch, M.S. Helium Shortage Affecting Instrument Users To Extend Into 2013..
<http://cen.acs.org/articles/90/i29/Helium-Shortage-Affecting-Instrument-Users.html>.
Helium Applications
Daily Life Applications:
LCD screen manufacturing-used to make sleeve for
glass tube in fiber optics
Welding for specialty metals- chemical inertness and
high heat capacity
Processing of semiconductor phone chips- cryogenic
use and to flush the vessels
Selling the Nation’s Helium Reserve. Washington, DC. National Academies, 2010.
Helium in Healthcare
Helium used as coolant for magnet in Magnet
Resonance Imaging (MRI) technology
~75,000 MRI scans/day, ~20,000 jobs at GE Healthcare
alone are MRI specific8
MRI machines require regular maintenance and
helium top-offs
During shortage, many patients will wait for
necessary scans
8Raush’s
statement. House Helium Hearing. 7/20/12.
Helium in Defense
Defense is where it all began and continues helium’s
use as a lifting gas
Safer than hydrogen as it is less flammable
Previously used for air travel, currently used for
observation in blimps and balloons
Helium-3 is used in neutron detectors at borders
The Federal Helium
Reserve
A reservoir of crude helium with 4 refiners attached
Provides 50% domestic and 35% global2
Will cease being self-sufficient in 2013 due to 1996
Helium Privatization Act3
2Selling
the Nation’s Helium Reserve. Washington, DC. National Academies, 2010.
with GE Healthcare. 7/17/2012
Picture courtesy of blm.gov
3Meeting
DOI-BLM. <http://www.blm.gov/nm/st/en/prog/energy/helium/federal_helium_program.html>.
Legislation
1996 Helium Privatization Act4
• Based on debt to National Treasury
• Required sell-off of helium at flat rate
• Price mandated by government, not market
• Did not accurately predict future uses of helium
4Selling
the Nation’s Helium Reserve. Washington, DC. National Academies, 2010.
Photo courtesy of eshopinflatables.com
Upcoming Legislation
2012 Helium Stewardship Act5
• Allows Federal Helium Reserve to remain selfsustainable without government appropriations
• Government phase out- no longer regulates prices
• Slow phase out will allow for time to form new
mines and keep market from a monopoly
• Government shall conduct surveys on helium uses
and reuse after two years
5S.2374
Helium Stewardship Act. Senator Bingaman.
Helium’s Future
As applications increase the Federal Helium Reserve
must remain operational- swift passage of S.2374
House companion bill
New plants should be created
Reuse technology should be encouraged and
mandated for large companies
Possible areas for public awareness
References
APS POPA & MRS. Energy Critical Elements: Securing Materials for Emerging Technologies. Washington,
DC: APS, 2009. Print.
Haynes, Mark. Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources. Hearing, Helium: Supply Shortages
Impacting our Economy, National Defense and Manufacturing. 112th Cong. 2nd sess. House. 20 July
2012. Statement.
Marcella, Orrin- GE Healthcare. Personal Interview. 17 July 2012.
National Research Council. Selling the Nation’s Helium Reserve. Washington, DC: National Academies,
2010. Print.
Rauch, Tom. Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources. Hearing, Helium: Supply Shortages
Impacting our Economy, National Defense and Manufacturing. 112th Cong. 2nd sess. House. 20 July
2012. Statement.
Reisch, Mark. “Helium Shortage to Affect Instrument Users to Extend into 2013,” Chemical and
Engineering News 16 July 2012. Accessed: 1 Aug. 2012.
United States. Cong. Senate. Senator Bingaman (D-NM). S. 2374 2012 Helium Stewardship Act.
Acknowledgements
WISE Interns and Sponsoring Societies
ASME staff
FMR Bill Behn
Erica Wissolik
John Buydos- Library of Congress
Jodi Lieberman- APS
Kelly Kryc- Committee of Energy and Natural Resources
Orrin Marcella- GE Healthcare

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