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March 19, 2012
Running Out of Helium?
Update: fixed link in first paragraph - sorry!
According to this article, and some others like it over the last few years, we are. Sale of the US government's strategic helium reserve lowered prices, which led to increased use, which now appears to be leading to shortages. (If you want to see a distorted market, look no further).
I'm no expert in this field, but my guess is that we're mainly running out of cheap helium. Continued oil and natural gas exploration should reveal more of it, but just as those petrochemicals won't be cheaper, helium won't be, either. And come to think of it, I'm not sure how much helium is to be found in shale gas and the like, as opposed to traditional formations. Some quick Googling suggest that shale is too porous to contain much of the helium, which I can well believe.
So prepare to pay even more to keep those NMR magnets running - it's hard to imagine that it'll ever get cheaper than it's been. Peak Oil, I'm not so sure about, but Peak Helium may have already been realized. . .
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