Saturday, July 8, 2017

"How the Qatar Crisis Shook Up the World's Supply of Helium"


The Earth is not actually running out of helium, but imbalances in the market, especially around a U.S. government helium reserve, did cause those shortages. Thankfully, relief was on the way. New helium plants came on line in Qatar, and the country quickly went from producing a small sliver of the world’s helium to 25 percent of it in 2016.

Now, Qatar is at the center of a regional crisis that seems to be about many different things, none of them helium. Yet the helium supply chain is tangled up in it. Qatar usually sends its supply over land through Saudi Arabia to a large port in the United Arab Emirates, from which the helium goes out to Singapore and then factories and labs around the world. Saudi Arabia and the UAE have cut off this route as part of the dispute.