The global helium market is worth about AUD$1.4 billion, but Australia has only captured a very small share of it. Australia is currently ranked 4th helium producer in the world (2015 data via Geoscience paper), but this ranking is misleading. USA is leader with 56% global production. 2nd is Qatar at 31%, 3rd Algeria at 6%, then 4th Australia with 3%. After Bayu-Undan gas runs out and swaps to Barossa it is 0%.
Australia has a significant opportunity to be a leading supplier of Helium, which is critical to many applications across multiple sectors of the economy, from medical to defence. The global and domestic demand for this strategic commodity continues to increase, and the world’s supply capacity is now falling behind, resulting in shortages and cost escalation.
Helium production is challenging because of the high capital and operating costs associated with conventional recovery technologies. Currently, the only commercially viable source of helium is natural gas, with production mostly occurring via LNG plants with extended deep cryogenic processing. While Australia is the world’s largest LNG exporter, it has only one helium recovery plant and contributes merely 2.6% to global production.
Australia is currently ranked 4th
helium producer in the world (2015 data via Geoscience paper), but this ranking is misleading. USA is leader with 56% global production. 2nd is Qatar at 31%, 3rd
Algeria at 6%, then 4th Australia with 3%. After Bayu-Undan gas runs out and swaps to Barossa it is 0%.
 Geoscience Australia APPEA Paper 2018 209-237. C J Boreham et al ‘Helium in the Australian Liquified Natural Gas Economy’
This project aims to lower the cost barriers associated with helium production and add value to the gas industry by recovering the otherwise elusive helium in LNG production. To achieve this, the project will develop and demonstrate non-cryogenic technologies for helium recovery that can potentially cut the production cost by 50% when compared to current approaches based on deep cryogenic processing.
This project will deliver an Australian researched, designed & fitted-out pilot facility for industrial-scale demonstration of new adsorption-based technologies for helium recovery. This will enable the translation of novel helium-selective adsorbent materials and process technology from the laboratory into Australian-owned industry, as well as facilitate the demonstration of new, non-cryogenic process cycles for helium recovery.
Project success has the potential to kick start Australia’s journey to accessing/unlocking current and yet to be discovered deep gas opportunity to capture the rare and essential gas helium.
Producing helium from LNG plants at a lower cost than currently achievable will give Australia an opportunity to produce more helium and create more export revenue.
The project will boost the productivity and competitiveness of Australia’s energy resources sector by:
Start: July 2020
End: June 2022
Total Project Cost: $600,000
Oilfield Technologies: $150,000
Gas Capture Technologies: In-Kind
*Funding excludes GST