Has your laboratory been having issues obtaining helium for your environmental analysis? As helium supplies become scarcer and more expensive, you may have been seeking alternative carrier gases or ways to conserve helium without sacrificing system performance. This blog will explore ways to conserve helium during your purge and trap (P&T) analysis.
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.
With helium increasing in scarcity and price, many laboratories are looking for cheaper and more readily available alternatives. Some have also been restricted or cut off completely from their suppliers due to the demand. In the realm of gas chromatography, this leaves hydrogen and nitrogen as the most viable alternatives for carrier gas. Gas generators are available from a variety of vendors for both hydrogen and nitrogen. Installation of one of these generators can lead to considerable cost savings over its lifetime, especially when changing from helium gas cylinders. New methods are also starting to allow alternative gases to accommodate these supply challenges.