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posted by janrinok on Wednesday June 29 2016, @12:33AM   Printer-friendly
from the lots-of-squeaky-voices dept.

CBC News reports that a deposit of helium-rich gases has been discovered beneath Tanzania. Estimated at "about 54 billion cubic feet (1.5 billion cubic metres) of helium," the deposit was found by looking for rocks that might contain helium, along with formations that could retain gases underground, and volcanic activity. It is believed that volcanic heat caused separation of helium from the parent rocks; the helium was then trapped in an underground cavern. Helium has traditionally been produced in conjunction with methane (natural gas). The discoverers are optimistic that similar formations may exist elsewhere in the world.

Gas seeping out of the new Tanzanian reserve contains up to 10.6 per cent helium, and the reserve is estimated to hold about 54 billion cubic feet (1.5 billion cubic metres) of helium gas in total.

"This is enough to fill over 1.2 million medical MRI scanners," said Chris Ballentine, a University of Oxford researcher who co-authored the study, in a news release.

For comparison, entire global reserves are thought to be about 35.2 billion cubic metres, and the world uses about 227 million cubic metres per year.

Additional coverage:


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Massive Reserve of Helium Found by Minnesota Exploratory Drill 5 comments

Massive Reserve of Helium Found by Minnesota Exploratory Drill, Likely the Biggest Find Ever in North America:

A new find of underground helium in Minnesota could turn out to be one of the largest in the world, Minneapolis's WCCO-TV reported Thursday. The drill site, just outside Babbitt in the northeastern part of the state, took about a month from initially breaking ground to get to a depth of 2,200 feet.

What it found there, Pulsar Helium CEO Thomas Abraham-James called "a dream." "There was a lot of screaming, a lot of hugging and high fives. It's nice to know the efforts all worked out and we pulled it off," Abraham-James told WCCO.

He said that the concentration of helium sampled was 12.4 percent — about 30 times what the outlet referred to as "the industry standard," and higher even than the company had forecast. "12.4% is just a dream," the CEO told the outlet. "It's perfect."

Further analysis remains to be done, of course, but the finding confirmed work completed in 2011 that indicated the presence of helium deep under the surface, the Duluth News Tribune reported.

Companies generally pursue helium concentrations above 0.3 percent that they can locate, the outlet noted. "So now the real hard begins to find out what is it truly that we have and the size of the prize," Abraham-James told the News Tribune.

Studying the size of the find and the feasibility of a full-sized mining operation could take up to a year, the company told WCCO. The Topez Project, as the drill site is called, was initially planned to go to a depth of 2,250 feet, but had to stop earlier than expected because of "abnormally warm temperatures and looming road weight restrictions," according to the paper.

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  • (Score: 3, Informative) by takyon on Wednesday June 29 2016, @12:46AM

    by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Wednesday June 29 2016, @12:46AM (#367348) Journal

    http://www.livescience.com/55204-huge-cache-of-ancient-helium-discovered.html [livescience.com]

    Gluyas said the discovery hinged on a new understanding of the very complex and ancient nuclear, chemical and geological mechanisms that create helium in the Earth's crust and transport it into pockets that can be tapped by drilling.

    "Almost more significant than the volume of helium found is that it was found on purpose," he said. "Every other discovery of helium to date has been found by accident."

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 29 2016, @05:12AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 29 2016, @05:12AM (#367402)

    There's a good Donald Trump joke in here somewhere.

    • (Score: 2) by Azuma Hazuki on Wednesday June 29 2016, @06:36AM

      by Azuma Hazuki (5086) on Wednesday June 29 2016, @06:36AM (#367421) Journal

      I dunno, he seems more like a sulfur kind of guy...

      --
      I am "that girl" your mother warned you about...
      • (Score: 2) by LoRdTAW on Wednesday June 29 2016, @01:36PM

        by LoRdTAW (3755) on Wednesday June 29 2016, @01:36PM (#367567) Journal

        More like a hydrogen sulfide kinda guy, foul and toxic.

        • (Score: 2, Touché) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 29 2016, @03:15PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 29 2016, @03:15PM (#367603)

          I see him as oxygen and nitrogen, just what the people need :^)

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 29 2016, @08:26AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 29 2016, @08:26AM (#367462)

    Now they can pay off all their balloon loans and float on cloud 9.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 29 2016, @06:27PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 29 2016, @06:27PM (#367670)

    Turns out natural gas contains enough helium to keep the entire world more than well-stocked. Its just that natural gas is so much more profitable than helium that the extraction companies don't even bother to separate it out.

    http://www.wired.com/2016/06/dire-helium-shortage-vastly-inflated/ [wired.com]

    • (Score: 2, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 29 2016, @08:08PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 29 2016, @08:08PM (#367710)

      Not all natural gas deposits are created equal - there are currently only a small number of fields where helium content is high enough to justify extraction *at current prices*, not unlike the "rare earth elements" that are almost everywhere but seldom present in high enough concentrations to warrant digging up a mountain and doing all the decidedly messy and environmentally unfriendly extraction work. Understanding where best to look for helium, rather than just prospect for natural gas and allow oneself to be surprised by the composition of its contaminants does look like an advantage.