For about a month, concerns about the shortage of helium gas have made art balloon businessman Leon Sorin day and night difficult. He is the operator of Balloons by Sorin, which provides balloons for activities on campus and bars.
Helium suppliers, which originally supplied 10 barrels of helium per week, now turn 1 to 2 barrels. "Everyone is starting to get nervous," he said. "The balloon store also limits each customer from buying at most 10 balloons."."
Sorin and his colleagues began to pay attention to the global helium shortage more than a year ago, but in recent weeks they began to feel the pressure. Sorin was lucky because he had 15 barrels of stock and looked for other suppliers, but he still couldn't get back to the original 10 barrels a week.
Experts say global helium is in short supply, and any disruptions in production and supply can lead to market imbalances.
This year (2007), Qatar and Algeria have started production cuts in helium production plants, and there is a possibility of closure. Last September, ExxonMobil, the largest producer of helium materials in the US, shut down a production plant in Wyoming, the US, and announced a planned maintenance. Two months later, the United States Land Authority took the same action. The United States Land Authority operates the federal helium stockpile agency in Texas and supplies raw materials to a private smelter. It is understood that during the winter, the snowy weather forced many private factories and state factories to stop working.
Helium used in colorful balloons at children's parties accounts for only a small fraction of the world's consumption. The United States Land Authority says helium is the most stable element in all substances and is generally used to cool the magnets on nuclear magnetic resonance devices and to clean the shuttle's troughs.
Helium can also be used for gas leak detection of other products and used as superconductors in physics experiments. This gas is also used in the production of semiconductors and computer chips and plays an important role in air-to-air missile systems.
The federal helium project, set up in 1925 for defense needs, built a storage facility known as the Bush Dome. The federal reserve system has become the world's leading supplier of helium, but that's not what the US government intended. When private demand exceeded the state's needs, Congress passed the helium privatization act in 1996, and the Federal Reserve became a supplier of private production. The Federal Reserve still supplies 42% of the nation's domestic helium demand and 35% of its global supply.
According to CryoGas International publisher JohnCampbell, the demand for helium is increasing because of the expansion of the electronics industry in Asia and China and the expansion of conventional welding technology.
The federal department, such as the NASA, is at the top of the helium supply chain. Private suppliers will also consider medical needs when helium supplies are scarce, experts say.
"Despite the frustration, the balloon industry is at the very end of the helium demand chain," says LeslieTheiss, industry manager at the Amarillo Division Office of the land administration." When helium is scarce, children can only play less balloons.