Australia's Helium Future

Low-cost Helium Production and Recovery from Australia's Natural Gas

About the Project

The global helium market is worth about AUD$1.4 billion. Unfortunately, the world’s helium supply capacity is now falling behind the increasing demand for this strategic commodity, leading to shortages and cost escalation.

Currently, the only commercially viable source of helium is natural gas, with production mostly occurring via LNG plants. However, although Australia is the world’s largest LNG exporter, it has only one helium recovery plant and contributes merely 2.6% to global production. Helium production is challenging because of the high capital and operating costs associated with conventional recovery technologies.

This project aims to lower these cost barriers and add value to the gas industry by recovering the otherwise elusive helium in LNG production, while also developing the industry and creating new jobs in Australia’s energy resources sector.

To achieve this, the project will develop and demonstrate non-cryogenic technologies for helium recovery that can potentially cut the production cost by 50% compared to current approaches that are based on deep cryogenic processing.

The project’s key milestone will be the delivery of a pilot facility that enables industrial-scale demonstration of new adsorption-based technologies for helium recovery. This will allow the translation of novel helium-selective adsorbent materials and process technology from the laboratory into industry, and facilitate the demonstration of new, non-cryogenic process cycles for helium recovery.


This project aims to:

  • Establish a process test-facility in Australia for industrial-scale demonstration of new helium-recovery and other unconventional gas technologies.
  • Optimise non-cryogenic helium recovery process into a single-stage cycle.
  • Commercilise Australian research and development while supporting early-career researchers, PhDs and engineering students trained for roles in the energy resources sector.
  • Be a catalyst to unlock Australia’s future helium industry by delivering cheaper and more energy efficient methods for helium recovery.
  • Secure Australia’s future supply of helium by demonstrating the patenting to produce helium from LNG plants at a lower cost than currently achievable.
  • Develop the industry and create new jobs in Australia's energy resources sector.

Do you know?

    • Helium is critical to many applications across multiple sectors of the economy from medical, defence, space and resources.
    • Helium powers/cools MRI's medical scanners, an essential tool in today's medicine.
    • Helium is used to leak test submarines. Australia operates six Collins-class submarines with two currently in deep maintenance and upgrade.
    • Helium is an essential gas for space exploration.
    • Australia has only one source of produced helium at the Darwin LNG facility. But this facility will be decommissioned shortly after the Bayu-Undan gas source is changed to Barossa.
    • Australia is the fourth largest helium producer in the world but accounts for less than 3% of total production. USA is the leader with 56% global production. Second is Qatar at 31%, and third is Algeria at 6%.

    Project Timeframe

    Start: July 2020

    End: End 2022


    Project Funding

    Total Project Cost: $600,000

    NERA: $300,000

    Oilfield Technologies: $150,000

    UWA: $150,000

    Gas Capture Technologies: In-Kind

      *Funding excludes GST