[Fox Business] Helium discovered in Minnesota as US supplies dwindle

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A potential helium reservoir was discovered in Minnesota last week, when drillers bored deep beneath the forest floor of the state’s Iron Range as supplies of the noble gas dwindle in the U.S.

Pulsar Helium Inc., a Canadian-based company, announced in a news release on Thursday that its team encountered gases with concentrations of up to 12.4% helium when its drilling rig reached a total depth of 2,200 at the Topaz Project drill site. Helium concentrations above 0.3% are considered economically viable.

Thomas Abraham-James, Pulsar’s president and CEO, said he is “delighted” about the “outstanding result.”

“It is a big day for helium exploration, confirming the original discovery in the new jurisdiction of Minnesota. I look forward to keeping the market updated with further results as they are received,” Abraham-James said.

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The concentration was measured with a mass spectrometer at the drill site, and samples of the collected gas will be sent to a “specialist gas laboratory for full molecular composition, removal of atmospheric (air) contamination, and isotopic characterization,” the company said.

Abraham-James told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that nearly all helium is a byproduct of natural gas production, but the lesser gas isn’t a priority for those companies.

Helium’s unique qualities make the gas an important and desired resource. 

While known as a lightweight gas that can fill balloons and blimps, helium can also take a liquid form that acts as a coolant for superconducting magnets needed to operate MRI machines and in the manufacturing of semiconductors. The gas also has applications in the defense industry, from rocket engine testing to air-to-air missile guidance systems and more.

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In January, the Compressed Gas Association warned in a letter that the U.S. government’s selling of its Federal Helium Reserve System (FHR) “could lead to severe disruptions in the U.S. helium supply chain.”

The FHR spans across Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas and provides 20% of the U.S. helium supply.

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The Minnesota helium reservoir was accidentally found in the Iron Range in 2011 when a company called Duluth Metals was drilling for platinum and palladium, according to local news outlets. 

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