How is Helium extracted?

As of late there has been a lot of discussion surrounding the apparent lack of Helium available. This is a major concern given that this gas is utilized throughout multiple industries. Uses for the gas include:

 

  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
  • Lifting gas – for hot air balloons and smaller recreational balloons
  • Breathing Mixtures – for deep-water diving and medical treatments
  • Welding Gas – used as a protective atmosphere

 

Helium is a byproduct of radioactive decay in natural gas. Therefore since natural gas has the most amounts of helium, most specialty gas laboratories will extract Helium via natural gas. There are also small amounts of helium in the air which can also be extracted, however the process for that is expensive and rarely used.

Typically helium is separated from natural gas through a cryogenic piping system. The natural gas is pressurized, and then passed through a sieve. During this scrubbing process, helium is separated from natural gas so that only crude helium remains. At this point, since the crude helium is only about 50% pure, further purification processes are warranted.

The crude helium is then cooled to -315 degrees Fahrenheit so that any remaining nitrogen or methane gases become liquefied and can be easily drained from the gas. The heat on the helium is then increased and oxygen is added to the gas so that any remnant traces of hydrogen will mix with the oxygen creating water. Once the water vapors are formed, the mixture is cooled back down and the water is drained from the mixture.

Once the water has been drained, the Helium then goes into containers filled with tiny particles to further purify the gas (think of the carbon water filters in most homes today). The process is repeated until the Helium is 99.99% pure specialty gas.

We at PurityPlus take this purification process very serious as multiple industries, from the healthcare industry to the food & beverage industry, rely on our specialty gases for the best possible experience.

To learn more on how your company can get the purest Helium on the market, contact one of your local partners today.