Helium shortage induces price hike

Helium is facing a global shortage which has resulted in increase in the prices of helium balloons, for instance. Sources allege the price of the gas has risen three times this year, varying from 8% to 10% each time. The surge has affected not only celebrations, but also its usage in medicine, deep-sea diving and electronics.

“Price has gone up an awful lot in a short space of time,” said Phil Kornbluth, the founder of Kornbluth Helium Consulting. “There’s no magic number. The price of helium varies quite a bit around the world, depending on where you are in the supply chain and whether you’re buying at source and how you’re buying it as a liquid or as a gas, for example. But it’s safe to say the price has gone up 50% to 100%, depending on who you are and where you are in the supply chain,” he added.

In the field of medicine, helium is used in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, especially used to get detailed images of the interiors of the human body. Furthermore it is also used for deep sea diving and in other scientific research procedures. Helium finds wide application in the production of computer chips as well as in liquid crystal displays, such as TV screens.

According to sources, the gas is not traded in the global market and does not have a wholesale price. Kornbluth attributes the surge in price to an auction held by the US government with regards to crude helium in August last year.

Based on sources, the nation helium reserve is the largest supplier of helium. The reserve was originally developed as a strategic store to supply gas to US airships. It however auctioned its supplies to a private industry in 2013. News allege, the auction has been the last one until 2021.

At the auction, helium witnessed a whopping 135% rise in the average price for crude helium. Sources also determine, industrial users boosted the stocks for the furture years.

“It wasn’t very difficult for major suppliers to pass this increase on to their customers, so it did affect worldwide pricing,” said  Kornbluth.