Helium threatens to be the dark horse of commodities in future

With tech companies such as Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Netflix being heavy users of helium in their massive data centers, helium is likely to become one of the fastest-growing commodities over the next decade, given the world’s insatiable appetite for data.

Overall, the global helium market was worth approximately $10.6 billion in 2019 but is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11% and reach approximately $15.73 billion by 2023.  The gas has largely gone under the radar until now.

Helium has the lowest melting point of all the elements (-272.2 °C), which makes it the go-to commodity when it comes to cooling. Liquid helium is used for cooling everything from magnets in MRI machines and ventilator machines to supercomputers and data centers. 

About 30% of the world’s helium supply goes into MRI scanners, while another 20% of the world’s helium supply goes into the manufacture of hard disks and semiconductors. Most of it used to cool servers at data centres which are exploding across the world. 

Helium is the second-lightest element known to man and belongs to the group of the so-called noble gases. Helium also happens to be the second most abundant element in the universe behind only hydrogen. The noble gas is part of the original formation of the planet, and can be mined in natural gas formations, or from radioactive decay of uranium and thorium in the earth’s crust. 

For decades, the U.S. has been the world’s largest producer, accounting for roughly 40% of supply. Unfortunately, the U.S. Federal Helium Reserve (FHR) i, the world’s single largest source of helium for the past 70 years, is now exhausted after FHR discontinued the sale of crude helium to private industry, with the remaining stockpile earmarked for Federal users only.

Consequently, prices have been increasing and could continue doing so for years. With very few mines being discovered helium seems all set for a massive price boom.

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