Roughly 30 percent of the world’s helium supplies comes from Qatar. Earlier this year, a blockade of Qatar by surround countries cut Qatar’s main route out of the country when Saudi Arabia and several other countries in the Middle East cut diplomatic ties with Qatar over concerns about Iran and extremists.
As a result of the blockade, experts were estimating another round of shortages and dramatic price increases for scientific instrument users. To offset the potential challenges of reduced supply coming from the region, U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which accounts for about 20% of global helium supply, ramped up production during the summer at its Cliffside facility in Texas. For the past several decades, the U.S. reserves in Texas have been the main source of helium worldwide. By 2021, commercial supplies of the gas at that location will end.