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Why Birthday Parties Aren't the Only Things Affected by the Helium Shortage!

Why Birthday Parties Aren't the Only Things Affected by the Helium Shortage

The imminent global helium shortage is poised to thoroughly impact the welding industry. Helium faces a shortage as an indispensable shielding gas in TIG welding, besides presenting challenges for other industrial sectors.

The scarcity of helium significantly affects the welding industry, which relies on this noble gas for various applications in joining and fabrication processes. With helium being Element 2 in the periodic table and a crucial component in welded construction, its dwindling availability poses a critical concern for industrial operations.

We've previously written about the helium shortage here:

The Helium Shortage Snapshot


  • The global reserves of helium, an essential noble gas with the atomic number 2, are rapidly dwindling, raising concerns across various industries.
  • The escalating demand for helium further exacerbates the shortage, posing significant challenges for sustainable usage.


  • The scarcity of helium is echoing across diverse sectors, including healthcare, manufacturing, and scientific research, where it plays a pivotal role in critical applications.
  • The welding industry is grappling with the fallout of depleting helium reservoirs. As a crucial shielding gas in TIG welding processes and other industrial applications, the diminishing availability of helium is slowing seamless operations and productivity.

History of Helium Discovery

In the late 1860s, French astronomer Jules Janssen and English astronomer Joseph Norman Lockyer independently observed a yellow spectral line in the sun's light during solar eclipses. This unique line did not correspond to any known element. It was later named the "D3" line and attributed to an undiscovered element.

However, it wasn't until 1895 that Scottish chemist Sir William Ramsay and English chemist Lord Rayleigh discovered helium on Earth. They identified it as a new element while studying a uranium mineral called cleveite. This find marked the first terrestrial detection of helium, shedding light on its presence beyond astronomical observations.

Helium Properties and Uses

Helium, represented by the symbol He, is distinguished as the second lightest and second most abundant element in the observable universe after hydrogen. Its inert properties make it a noble gas, rendering it non-reactive under normal conditions.

The remarkable characteristics of helium have led to its extensive use in various applications. It is a crucial coolant in cryogenics because of its low boiling point. Its low boiling point makes it indispensable for maintaining superconducting temperatures in scientific research and medical imaging equipment such as MRI machines.

Helium is pivotal in welding processes as a shielding gas, particularly in TIG (Tungsten Inert Gas) welding. Its inert nature ensures arc stability and prevents atmospheric contamination during welding operations, contributing to high-quality welds with minimal defects.

Increasing Demand and Limited Supply

The rising demand for helium stems from its widespread use across various industries and scientific research efforts. The need for this noble gas continues to rise because helium serves critical functions in the healthcare, manufacturing, and technology sectors. However, the natural reserves of helium are naturally limited, leading to challenges in meeting the growing demand.

Extracting helium presents its own set of difficulties. The geological limitations associated with helium reservoirs make extraction complex and resource-intensive. These factors contribute to the dwindling supply of helium, creating an unhealthy imbalance between demand and availability.

Lack of Conservation Efforts

Despite the critical nature of helium as a finite resource, there is a notable absence of effective conservation and recycling practices within the industry.

Helium, which possesses unique properties that make it irreplaceable, faces challenges in effective conservation and reusability.

The lack of sustainable practices deepens the strain on existing helium reserves. Without comprehensive efforts to conserve and recycle helium, the depletion continues at an alarming rate, exacerbating concerns about its long-term availability.

Impact on TIG Welding

Helium is pivotal in TIG welding as a shielding gas, contributing to superior arc stability and precise heat input. The scarcity of helium presents significant challenges for maintaining the quality and efficiency of welding processes. As helium becomes less available, welders have a tougher time achieving acceptable welds. Poor weld quality becomes problematic because those poor welds potentially impact the welded component's structural integrity.

Alternative Solutions for Welding

In response to the helium shortage, the welding industry is actively exploring alternative shielding gases to reduce its impact. One prominent alternative is argon, which offers comparable inertness and is used effectively in various welding applications. Innovations in welding technology are being pursued to adapt to the evolving gas supply landscape. These advancements aim to optimize welding processes and ensure seamless operations, considering the changing availability of shielding gases.

Efforts to Replenish Helium Resources

In response to the critical depletion of helium reserves, concerted efforts are underway to explore new avenues for helium discovery and extraction. Advanced geological surveys and innovative technologies are being deployed to identify potential helium reservoirs that supplement the dwindling global supply. These initiatives seek to uncover untapped sources of helium, bolstering its availability for industrial and scientific applications.

Continuous advancements in the extraction of helium are being made to improve the efficiency of the extraction processes.

Technological advancements are being leveraged to increase helium extraction yield from existing reserves and alternative sources, promising to boost the overall availability of this vital noble gas.

Conservation and Recycling Strategies

Conservation and recycling programs are being developed to address concerns about helium scarcity. The focus is on reducing waste and increasing resource sustainability. Industry stakeholders and research institutions work together to create efficient helium recovery and recycling processes.

We can recover and recycle leftover helium from various industrial processes to conserve our natural helium resources. Using sustainable practices when using helium, we can responsibly manage this valuable element and reduce our reliance on natural reserves.

Helium Discovery in Minnesota

A potential helium reservoir was recently discovered in Minnesota during drilling beneath the forest floor of the Iron Range. Pulsar Helium Inc. announced that they found gases with helium concentrations of up to 12.4%, which is economically viable. Samples were collected and sent to a specialist laboratory for full molecular composition and isotopic characterization.

Welding Industry Collaboration and Innovation

The welding industry works with research institutions and government agencies to address the helium shortage. They aim to mitigate the impact of helium depletion on welding processes by finding innovative solutions through partnerships and collective expertise.

This research collaboration aims to develop customized welding techniques and materials that can adapt to the changing gas supply and overcome challenges caused by helium scarcity. The goal is to optimize welding processes and enhance efficiency while ensuring quality.

New materials are being developed to offer sustainable solutions for maintaining the strength of structures. The welding industry works collaboratively to address the helium crisis through innovative measures.

Regulatory and Policy Considerations

To address the helium shortage, we are looking at how the welding industry can use helium sustainably and reduce wastage. We are reviewing the industry's regulations to achieve this goal.

Alternative shielding gases, like argon, are being explored to encourage the use of more sustainable welding practices. These gases can replace helium, the primary shielding gas used in welding. The aim is to reduce dependence on helium and make sustainable options more appealing. Policy measures are being considered, supporting a smooth transition towards these practices.

By integrating regulatory and policy considerations, the welding industry aims to establish a framework that supports responsible resource management while fostering technological advancements in joining and fabrication processes. This concerted effort underscores a commitment to sustainability and resilience in confronting challenges related to gas supply dynamics within industrial operations.

In Sum

The welding industry and other sectors that rely on helium are facing a global shortage of this noble gas. It is crucial to take action to address the depletion of helium resources. Collaborative initiatives and innovative solutions are necessary to reduce the impact of the helium crisis on the welding industry and ensure a steady supply of gas for the future.

Industries face a challenge from decreasing helium availability. It's important to conserve the existing reserves, explore new extraction methods, and develop recycling strategies to maintain uninterrupted operations. Addressing helium scarcity concerns is crucial for a sustainable future.

The global helium shortage requires a collective effort from industries, research institutions, and local communities. It highlights the shared responsibility for managing resources sustainably.



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