Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Huge New Helium Gas Find in Tanzania

Various news sources are reporting that a field containing about six years' worth of the world's annual usage of helium gas has been found.  The interesting line in this article is that nobody apparently searches for Helium.  When they need some, they know some areas to look and that's about it:
The discovery in Tanzania is the result of a new exploration approach for the precious gas that is essential to spacecraft, MRI scanners, nuclear energy, according to the Oxford University statement. Helium also fills party balloons.

This is the first time helium has been found intentionally, said the statement. Until now, the gas has been found in small amounts accidentally during oil and gas drilling.

Independent experts have estimated the helium discovery is about 54 billion cubic feet, Oxford professor Chris Ballentine said.
The intense Tanzanian heat appears to have broken down helium bearing rocks deeper in the crust, allowing the gas to escape.  Helium is hard to mine for a couple of reasons: first is that it's essentially inert and nothing can be used to react with it and capture it; second, it's a tiny molecule that can escape very well-sealed containers.  What's left in the earth's crust is from atomic decay of heavier elements giving off alpha particles.  The helium is probably left over from the formation of the solar system.  
(Tanzanian field).


  1. We used LOTS of Helium at Sea Launch.

    All the propellant tanks would get purged with it before they started fuels the rocket, and if there was an abort, the tanks would be drained, and then purged first with dry N2, and then purged again with Helium before they were refilled.

  2. Wow! That's a lot of helium. Everyone in the world could talk like a duck with that much helium.

    My nephew was showing off one day and took a lung full of helium to talk funny. But someone else was jabbering away so the kid held it till he couldn't anymore and exhaled took in another deep breath of helium. His eye rolled up and he collapsed to the floor. So much funnier than talking like a duck.