U.S. Sells its Helium Stockpile to Highest Bidder, Potentially Impacting a Wide Array of Industries

by Leslie Eastman at legalinsurrection.com

Back in 2022, I wrote that Russia had limited exports of noble gases that are critical to making semiconductor chips, at least until the end of 2022.

Those noble gases included helium, which is essential for semiconductor chip manufacturing and used in specialty medical equipment (magnetic resonance imaging/MRI machines).

It looks like we may soon have a self-induced shortage of this important resource, which is worrying many in a wide array of industries.

Soumi Saha, a senior vice-president of Premier Inc. said an existing helium supply shortage may get worse as regulatory and logistical issues could cause a temporary shutdown of the existing federal supply while it transitions to private ownership.

“We are stressing about this shortage. From a health care perspective, MRI machines are the No. 1 concern,” Saha said.

Premier Inc. contracts with helium suppliers to supply hospitals.

The massive federal stockpile of helium spans three states and about 6 billion cubic feet of helium is held underground in the Bush Dome.

A 1996 law — the Helium Privatization Act of 1996 — forced the sale of nearly all the 30 billion cubic feet of helium held in the Bush Dome and pegged the cost not at market rates, but at the annual inflation rate.