Bad Soden, Germany,

Industrial gases specialist Messer offers for US helium plants

The U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management has accepted Messer’s bid for the Federal Helium System and the company will move forward to the necessary regulatory reviews to acquire the assets. 

The Federal Helium System was auctioned by the General Services Administration (GSA) on January 25, 2024, in accordance with the Helium Stewardship Act of 2013, which required the Bureau of Land Management to sunset its management of the System and follow a statutory disposal process. The Helium System includes helium molecules stored in the caverns in Amarillo, Texas, as well as the Cliffside field, wells and gathering system, the 423-mile-long crude helium pipeline, and additional operational assets. 

Messer has been the operator of the Cliffside gas plant, which enriches the helium extracted from the storage tank in a first stage, for almost two years now. “Messer is fully committed to the future success of the Helium System, as evidenced by Messer’s safe and reliable operation of the System’s Cliffside Gas Plant since May 2022,” said Elena Skvortsova, COO Americas and Member of the Executive Board of Messer. 
The accepted bid must now undergo required antitrust review by the Department of Justice. The company will also work with regulators across multiple states to comply with local laws and regulations. 
“Messer intends to be a responsible operator and steward of this critical asset for decades to come, continuing to serve the many industries that rely on this vital resource that enables key technology and innovation in multiple sectors of the economy,” Skvortsova added.

Due to its special properties, the noble gas helium is indispensable for many applications, for example for magnetic resonance imaging in medicine, the production of semiconductors, space travel, the generation of very low temperatures in research and science, as a shielding gas in welding, as a tracer gas in leak detection or as a carrier gas in gas chromatography.
At around 4 Kelvin, -286.93 degrees C, liquid helium has the lowest boiling point of all gases. It is therefore the coldest liquid of all and thus the ideal refrigerant for generating extremely low temperatures.