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Panel: Domestic Helium Production Needed Avoid Shortfall and Strengthen National Security

WASHINGTON, D.C., June 21, 2017 -

Today, the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held a legislative hearing on a discussion draft of the “Helium Extraction Act of 2017.” The bill authorizes the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to lease federal land for the purpose of helium production under the same lease terms as oil and gas.

[M]ajor concerns remain regarding the future of the domestic helium market,” Subcommittee Chairman Paul Gosar (R-AZ) said.[W]e need to ensure our country will have access to such a necessary resource. Without a domestic source of helium, American industries will be forced to rely on foreign sourced helium.

Helium, which is a byproduct of the natural gas extraction process, is an essential element used in medical, defense and energy related services such as MRIs, air-to-air missile guidance systems and semiconductors. The United States is currently the world’s largest supplier of helium ahead of Qatar, Algeria and Russia.

Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia and its regional allies broke off economic and diplomatic relations, including transport ties, with Qatar. As a result of the ongoing conflict, Qatar, the world’s second largest helium producer, has closed multiple helium production plants.

Walter Nelson, Vice President and General Manager of Global Helium at Air Products and Chemicals, Inc., argued increasing domestic production and supply would eliminate future dependence on potentially unstable foreign sources of supply.

With the Qatar helium source unavailable, demand has shifted to other global sources – most prominently the BLM system in the United States,” Nelson stated.This supply disruption will impact everyone.”

In addition to strengthening national security, Jason Demers, President and CEO of Tacitus Ventures Corporation, said domestic helium exploration and production will benefit communities around the country.

“[It will] generate new federal revenues without creating additional costs associated with regulatory oversight. [And] lead to job creation and increased economic activity in remote regions of the country,” Demers said.

Acting Assistant Director of the Bureau of Land Management Energy, Mineral, and Realty Management Tim Spisak expressed support for the discussion draft, stating: “it supports the Administration’s priority to make America safe through energy independence.”

“The BLM supports the draft bill in its current form. By providing additional avenues to bringing Federal land into helium production, the draft Helium Extraction Act supports the prudent development of this resource,” Spisak said.

Click here to view full witness testimony.

Contact: Committee Press Office 202-225-2761

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