Linde Supports Senate Approval of Helium Bill

By Chemical Processing staff

Sep 24, 2013

Linde North America praised the Senate’s passage of a bill on Sept. 19 to extend the federal helium program.  The Senate voted 97-2 to approve the legislation.

The legislation will help stabilize helium markets and prevent disruptions in helium supply, said Joe Horn, Linde’s global head of bulk, helium and rare gases.

A final passage of the legislation is necessary or the Federal Helium Reserve, operated by the Bureau of Land Management, will be forced to cease operations by Oct. 7, Horn said.

Helium is a critical raw material used in the production of semiconductors, LCD screens, fiber optic cable and MRI machines. Linde refines helium that comes from the Federal Helium Reserve and provides it to high-tech manufacturers and government agencies.

“I congratulate the senators who voted for this legislation,” Horn said. “Continuation of the program is critically important to the economy because it injects market forces into the helium program, while at the same time maintaining the stability and certainty that healthcare and high-tech industries depend on.”

The legislation authorizes BLM to gradually phase in an auction process for the sale of federal helium and institute a number of other reforms to the long-running program.

“Phasing in the auction will ensure that the government receives fair market prices for helium while preventing market disruptions in existing supply chains, said Nick Haines, Linde’s head of Helium Source Development. “Gradually phasing in an auction of the federal helium will attract bidders, will establish a market price, and, just as importantly, will help discourage hoarding, speculation and other disruptive behaviors that occur in unpredictable markets.”

The bill now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.  Final passage before Oct. 1 is considered essential to prevent a temporary shutdown of the BLM reserve, which would cause economic disruptions.

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