Helium Shortage Fear May Ease with Discovery in Tanzania’s East African Rift Valley

Helium gas filled in balloons

Helium He2, is a very critical element used in various industries such as MRI machines, water manufacturing, welding as well in some medical activities. The word helium comes from the Greek word meaning the sun (helios). It was named by Lockyer and English chemist Edward Frankland. Helium is normally found accidently, while drilling for oil or natural gas. It is feared that the gas fields on our planet will run out of the earth soon in 15 to 20 years down the line with the increasing use of the gas day by day.

But the scientists from Oxford and Durham universities in the UK, with Norway’s helium exploration firm Helium One, have achieved a breakthrough in this uncertainty of finding Helium gas. They have found a method to search the gas. These scientists have proved that volcanic activity can provide the intense temperatures that are required to release helium from ancient rocks.

The usefulness of this technique is proved by the discovery of a huge helium gas field in Tanzania’s East African Rift Valley. This new Tanzanian gas field has approximately 54 billion cubic feet (BCf) of Helium trapped in just one area of the rift valley, which is equivalent to almost 7 years of present world consumption (present consumption of world is 8 BCf per year). This has come amid the global shortage of helium. Oxford released a photo of some of the low-tech components used in the exploration, such as a roll of duct tape and plastic piping propped on a stick in what looks like a shallow pond.

The efforts were exclusively made to find Helium for the first time on our planet, and it has been found too. Hence this discovery carries enormous importance. Professor Ballentine from the scientist’s team says, “All helium to this point that’s been produced has always been found by accident, and that’s all well and good, but if you actually want helium, and you want that seriously, and you want a good supply of helium, you need to go out and look for it. Helium just doesn’t like being trapped.” Helium is just like hydrogen, really very light gas. Once it is used, it vents into the atmosphere. It is so light that it escapes into space and hence we can never reuse it, and neither can we recapture it.
It is said by the experts, “this helium discovery is a game changer for the future security of society’s helium needs, and similar finds in the future may not be far away.”

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