The global helium market is witnessing growth, due to the increased research and development activities and high demand for helium in healthcare and welding industry. Among the various applications, the cryogenics segment held the largest share in the global helium market in 2015, and it is anticipated to retain its dominance during the forecast period, due to the high demand of liquid helium in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) equipment. Liquid helium is utilized to cool the magnets in MRI machine. Similarly, the consumption of helium was largest in healthcare industry in 2015. Based on distribution models, the packaged segment accounted for the largest share in the global helium market and it is anticipated to retain its dominance during the forecast period. Helium is generally distributed to the end-users in form of compressed gas in metal cylinders.
The usage of helium as cryogenic coolant in defense research is creating ample growth opportunities for the global helium market. Moreover, liquid helium is also being utilized for studying the atomic structure and behavior of subatomic particles in quantum mechanics. Therefore, there are ample revenue generation opportunities for the producers of helium. However, stringent regulatory requirements, complexities and cost associated with the storage, transportation and distribution of liquid helium or gas, and safety concerns are the key challenges for the growth of the global helium market.
Helium is a colorless, odorless, non-corrosive, non-toxic and non-combustible gas mainly produced or sourced from natural gas wells. Helium is one of the most vital industrial gases having several applications. Helium has the lowest boiling point of all the gases (-269oC), therefore, liquid helium is the coldest matter. Liquid helium has applications as coolants in nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and MRI equipment. Moreover, helium has several applications in different industries. It creates inert shield for protection of weld zone. It is used to pressurize rocket fuel and purge chemical vapors. It is mixed with oxygen to create breathing mixture for divers; used for leakage detection; and used for controlled atmosphere.
Geographically, North America held the largest share in the global helium market, owing to the high demand for cryogenic application, and increasing domestic chemical and allied product shipments in the U.S. Helium is required to purge the chemicals vapors; therefore, the increasing domestic chemical and allied products shipment is creating demand for helium in the U.S. Moreover, the increasing production of aerospace production would aid the requirement for helium to pressurize and purge liquid hydrogen fuel system. In addition, the growth of the European helium market is attributed to the increasing demand for helium in automobile, construction, healthcare, transport and mining industry. Asia-Pacific is predicted to be the fastest growing market for helium during 2016 – 2022. The major reasons behind the fastest growth of the region are the increasing usage of helium in semiconductor and electronics industry and high demand for helium in welding application. Helium is used to protect weld zone from the atmosphere, creating an inert shield around it. Gas tungsten arc welding and gas metal arc welding are the major welding processes utilizing helium gas.
The key players operating in the global helium market include Airgas Inc., Air Liquide, Linde AG, Messer Group, Praxair Inc., Polish Oil and Gas Company, Iwatani Corporation, Exxon Mobil Corporation, Matheson Tri-Gas, ONEOK Inc., RasGas Company Limited, and Qatargas Operating Company Limited.