Helium Market Overview
The growing investments in research and development (R&D) for helium-based devices is a key trend impacting the global helium market. For instance, there is ongoing research to employ supercooled helium for improved global positioning system (GPS) in submarines and airplanes. The research funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Science Foundation is expected to work upon helium-4, cooled to nearly the absolute zero temperature, thereby rendering helium to become a frictionless fluid and develop an ability to produce auditory sensations. The research aims to envisage usage of this property in making sensitive gyroscopes for better navigation in submarines and airplanes.
Helium is a colorless, odorless, non-corrosive, non-toxic, and non-combustible gas mainly produced or sourced from natural gas wells. The gas also occurs naturally in air, in extremely minute concentration by its release during radioactive decay of uranium. Helium is the second lightest and the second most abundant element in the observable universe, constituting nearly 24% of the total elemental mass. The entire global helium supply depends on roughly 20 liquefaction plants, located in countries such as the U.S., Poland, Russia, Algeria, Qatar, China, and Australia. In the report, the helium market is segmented on the basis of phase, application, end-use industry, and region.
The helium market is classified on the basis of phase into liquid and gas. Larger share is attributed to gas-based consumption in the market. Gaseous helium is majorly employed in welding. It provides an inert gas shield to protect the weld zone from the external atmosphere. Two major welding processes that use helium are gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW) and gas metal arc welding (GMAW). Other adoption areas of gas-based helium include pressuring and purging, fiber optics, semiconductors, leak detection, and as a heat transfer medium.
The helium market is categorized on the basis of application into magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), semiconductors and optical fibers, pressurizing and purging, welding, leak detection, ballooning, and science and research. Helium is used as the sleeve in rods that create liquid crystal display (LCD) screens. It is also used as protective gas for flushing during processing of semiconductor chips, and as a cooling gas during the development of silicon crystals. It is also considered vital for manufacturing optic fiber cables, as the presence of helium prevents bubble trapping inside the fiber cables.
Based on region, the helium market is categorized into North America, Europe, APAC, Latin America, and MEA. Geographically, North America is the largest producer and consumer of helium. Moreover, countries such as Qatar, Algeria, Russia, Poland, and Australia also produce significant commercial quantities of helium. The growing adoption of helium in electronics industry in the APAC region is likely to generate demand for the gas in the upcoming period. This gain in share of the APAC market is expected to be in coherence to a decline in share of the North American and European markets.
Helium Market Dynamics
The key factors driving the growth of the helium market are growing demand for the gas from medical applications such as MRI and NMR, and growth in the electronics and semiconductor industries across the APAC region.
The demand for liquid helium in medical equipment and devices is majorly dominated by its adoption in MRI and NMR machines. During operation, MRI scanners require liquid helium to cool their superconductive magnet coils to a lower temperature. Moreover, the extremely low boiling point of helium allows it to be chosen for cryogenic experiments. Currently, for commercially available superconducting magnets employed in NMR spectroscopy, helium is the only material available to maintain the low temperature necessary for generating the superconducting effect. With increasing access to healthcare facilities across the globe, the demand for adoption of the element is also likely to propel the helium market.
The electronics manufacturing companies for semiconductors, flat-panel displays, and optical-fibers are the significant consumers of helium in the Asian region. The element is employed in construction of panels, and as a coolant in manufacturing operations of silicon wafers and devices. The growth in electronics market in China, South Korea, and Taiwan is expected to drive the helium market.
The growth in helium market is moderately restrained by high cost of extraction and transportation of the gas, thereby rendering the business as highly capital-intensive. The logistics for transporting helium are complex and account for high cost due to the requirement of dedicated cryogenic containers for hauling and transport. Moreover, storage of helium also requires complex tanks that have double-walled pressure containers with multi-layer vacuum insulation and external radiation shield chilled with liquid nitrogen to regulate the storage quantity.
Helium Market — Competitive Landscape
The helium market is extremely consolidated with industry players, primarily, industrial gas production companies having direct access to sources of helium. Other residual effects to this include production control of the global helium supply is in the hands of few companies, thereby rendering the market as tight and highly competitive in nature. Traditionally, the market has witnessed consolidation, and mergers and acquisitions (M&A) by players to gain market share and integrate supply chains in the market. For instance, in October 2018, The Linde Group and Praxair Inc. announced the closure of their merger following the approval of the proposed entity from U.S. Federal and Trade Commission (FTC).
Some of the other major players operating in the global helium market are Air Liquide, Messer Group, Polish Oil and Gas Company, Iwatani Corporation, Exxon Mobil Corporation, Matheson Tri-Gas, ONEOK Inc., and Qatargas Operating Company Limited.
The study provides the historical as well the forecast market size data for various countries, including the U.S., Canada, France, Germany, the U.K., Italy, Russia, Japan, China, India, Indonesia, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, and South Africa.