Air Products ups helium prices, sees supply limits

Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. recently said it will increase helium prices 18%, effective as of Oct. 1, and warned that the next helium production facility is likely to be sited outside the US sinc…

Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. recently said it will increase helium prices 18%, effective as of Oct. 1, and warned that the next helium production facility is likely to be sited outside the US since helium reserves in the US are depleting. Besides balloons and airships, helium is used in the magnetic resonance imaging, semiconductor, fiber optic, analytical and other industries. Based on current forecasts, Air Products said, helium demand is expected to exceed worldwide capacity by the end of 2002 and to remain in a deficit condition through early 2005. The worldwide price increase applies to bulk and other containers of liquid and gaseous helium, the company“s statement said, adding increases may be greater in cases where previous discounts are being eliminated. Rental fees on bulk liquid containers and bulk gaseous tube trailers also will be increased, the company said. Air Products describes itself as “the world“s leading producer and supplier of helium.” Commenting on the increase, Ronald Sheppard, worldwide general manager for Air Products“ helium business, said: “We continue to be faced with electrical power cost increases and curtailments, increasing costs of labor and materials, as well as increasing costs of diesel and gasoline to haul product to customers. “This is all while continuing to make significant capital investments in new plant capacity, transportation equipment and an expanded distribution fleet in order to source product from alternative sources when necessary.” These investments are “The proactive steps we have taken and the strategic capital investments we have made will become even more significant as the market continues to grow and as helium supplies continue to tighten,” he added. Air Products also said it is targeting offshore projects to provide adequate product for the long term at a reasonable cost. However, it noted, offshore projects such as the Helios joint venture in Algeria generally take a much longer to establish than those in the US.