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Bureau of Mines / Minerals yearbook metals, minerals, and fuels 1972
Year 1972, Volume 1 (1972)

Koelling, Gordon W.
Helium,   pp. 605-610 PDF (613.0 KB)


Page 605

  605Helium 
By Gordon W. Koelling 
 Sales of high purity helium (99.995% purity) in the United States during
1972 increased 9% to a total of 489 million cubic feet.2 Approximately 36%
of this total was sold by the Bureau of Mines and 64% was accounted for by
private industry plant sales. Exports of high purity helium, all by private
industry, totaled 138 million cubic feet in 1972. The f.o.b. Bureau of Mines
plant price for high purity helium sold during the year remained at $35 per
thousand cubic feet while private industry plant prices averaged $21 per
thousand cubic feet. 
 In compliance with an order of the U.S. District Court for the District
of Kansas issued on March 27, 1971, the Bureau of Mines continued to accept
helium during 1972 under three of four conservation contracts whose termination
provisions had 
been invoked by the Secretary of the Interior. This order was affirmed on
appeal on the ground that the requirements of the National Environmental
Policy Act had not been complied with. On November 13, 1972, the Department
released an environmental impact statement prepared in fortherance of an
evaluation of the environmental consequences of termination of the contracts.
 A ruling made by the U.S. Court of Claims on January 21, 1972, held that
the Government had materially breached its agreement with the fourth contractor..
The issue of damages is pending. This firm continued to deliver helium, to
the Bureau of Mines for storage to its account, pursuant to an interim storage
agreement until expiration of the agreement on September 28, 1972. 
DOMESTIC PRODUCTION 
 A total of 12 helium extraction plants were in operation during 1972. Of
these two were owned by the Federal Govern. ment and operated by the Bureau
of Mines, five were private industry plants extracting helium primarily for
long-term conservation storage, and five were private industry plants producing
helium for independent sale to commercial (non-Federal) customers. 
 Total helium extracted from natural gas during 1972 declined approximately
10% to 4,089,501 thousand cubic feet despite a 9% increase in the output
of high purity helium to 627,250 thousand cubic feet. Approximately 85% of
total helium extracted was crude helium3 and 15% was high purity helium produced
for sale. About 92% of crude helium production was from private industry
conservation plants and 72% of high purity output was from private industry
plants producing for sale to corn- 
mercial customers. The remaining 8% of crude and 28% of high purity helium
produced was extracted by Bureau of Mines plants. 
 Of the 438,665 thousand cubic feet of helium produced by the Bureau of Mines
Keyes and Exell plants in 1972, approximately 88% was extracted from natural
gas supplied by a private natural gas pipeline company on a gas-processing
contract basis. The remaining 12% was extracted from natural gas that was
produced from the Bureau of Mines Cliffside gasfield primarily in order to
create additional reservoir space for helium conservation storage. All helium
extraction from Cliffside natural gas occurred at the Exell plant. 
 ' Geographer, Division of Fossil Fuels. 
 2 All helium statistics in this chapter are reported in terms of contained
helium measured at 14.7 pounds per square inch absolute and 70' F. 
 3 Helium mixed with various quantities of other light gases, mostly nitrogen.


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