Australia Stops Producing Helium when Santos’s Supply of Gas for the Darwin plant Runs Out

CITATION: Image used for information purpose only. Picture Credit:

Darwin’s helium production facility, the only one in the southern hemisphere, has closed due to a run-out of gas.

Since 2010, BOC has been using the Darwin LNG plant, owned by Santos, to produce helium as a byproduct.

Following the depletion of its Bayu-Undan gas field, Santos has now temporarily closed the plant, forcing BOC to likewise stop producing helium.

The multinational chemical company Linde owns BOC, which stated in a statement that it will “continue to supply Australian and New Zealand customers with imported helium sourced from several Linde plants overseas”.

Helium is used in party balloons, but it’s also essential for MRI scanners in hospitals, scuba diving gear, welding supplies, solar panel production, and the production of semi-conductor microchips.

Although Australia no longer had a local supply of helium, according to global helium consultant Phil Kornbluth, there was little risk of a shortage of the gas.

“The Australian market is still going to get its helium, it is just going to be imported,” said Kornbluth.

“It will probably cost more than it would have cost if it was produced domestically simply because there is going to be more transportation cost involved.”

The United States and Qatar, who control the majority of the world’s helium market, produced much more helium than BOC’s Darwin helium plant, which produced only 3% of the world’s supply.

Santos is trying to replenish its gas supply for its Darwin LNG plant, but Mr Kornbluth claims that there isn’t enough helium in its new gas field, Barossa, to make it economically viable to extract.

In the Mereenie Basin, the gas company Central Petroleum is examining the feasibility of putting in a helium recovery unit on its current conventional gas wells.

In an August announcement, Central Petroleum CEO Leon Devaney stated, “Helium is only produced at a handful of locations worldwide, so successful commercial production at Mereenie is likely to draw international attention to the unique and potentially vast helium resources of the Amadeus Basin.”

In order to investigate potential helium resources south of Alice Springs, Central Petroleum and Santos have formed a joint venture.

In an attempt to locate helium and natural gas, Santos filed for environmental permits last month to drill exploration wells in the Amadeus basin.

The company plans to drill exploration wells in 2024 if the application is approved.

Read More: Click Here