Helium is a noble gas created over time through the decay of radioactive materials present in natural rocks. It is lighter than air and much of it is lost to the atmosphere. As a non-renewable resource that has many essential uses, helium stores have been depleted over the years. But a number of new projects to harvest helium stores have produced an increase in drilling needs.
American Helium Inc,. a resource exploration company with a focus on the demand for helium in technology, has executed a project that will zero in on certain areas of the U.S. that have been identified as holding helium stores in saline groundwater. Two water wells in Colorado that have been proven as helium resources will be redrilled after being plugged and abandoned since the 1990s. In another agreement, American Helium will also undertake exploration drilling in the Holbrook Basin, located in the “Four Corners” area of the Southwest, where Colorado, Arizona, Utah and New Mexico meet. This region is well-established as a prolific area for helium production. The Basin is home to a wide range of helium pockets ranging anywhere from trace amounts to 10% concentration, with anything above 0.3% being commercially valuable.
Helium is used in a number of essential functions, with the largest use of helium in the medical field as a coolant for the superconducting magnets of MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) machines. Because it doesn’t react to other chemicals or elements, it is also used to purge the liquid engines of rockets, test for leaks in containers subjected to high pressure or low vacuum, and is crucial in a number of scientific experiments. It is able to cool items below the temperatures of space, lower than any other known cryogen.
Since it is carried through saline groundwater, helium tends to accumulate in porous geological formations like sandstone. Drilling exploration wells and using 3D seismic survey techniques will help American Helium identify and harvest abundant helium stores for continued scientific exploration and medical testing.