The liquid helium market is very complex and supply moves between feast and famine on a fairly regular cycle. At one stage USA held the monopoly through the Federal Helium Reserve (FDH) and even now USA controls about 40% of the world’s supplies. However, FDH has now resolved to dispose of its helium assets through a variety of avenues including public sales. This was all meant to conclude by the end of 2022, but with a serious explosion at Russia’s major supply factory in Amur and far-reaching international sanctions being imposed against Russia anyway, there is considerable turmoil and an exacerbated supply shortage. Qatar (in particular) as well as Algeria and to a lesser extent, Australia will attempt to fill the void – but at a price of course!
Meanwhile, general world trade and economies continue to be badly disrupted by the on-going Russia/Ukraine conflict and eye-watering shipping rates. However, GML has proved yet again that through being nimble and flexible, there is still much business to be discovered.
With regard to helium, GML started investigating the feasibility of leasing 40’ helium tanks a number of years ago, especially to smaller independent operators. However, it is only comparatively recently that the climate has changed in particular with regard to the wider availability of helium itself that has made our vision practical.
It has therefore been very gratifying that GML/Socomat’s persistence has reaped dividends and its fleet of 40’ helium tanks as well as dewars – primarily for hospital and similar applications – continues to grow steadily.
Indeed, over and above this latest confirmed contract, there are already other serious enquiries to hand which will no doubt progress once there is greater clarity and stability. Interestingly, GML is also being asked to supply and lease helium compressors, which we are more than happy to do.
At this time, GML builds new 40’ helium tanks at both Gardner (USA) and Linde (Germany), the choice depending on a variety of factors and the client’s particular needs.
On occasion, we also manage to acquire 2nd-hand 40’ tanks which are then fully refurbished before re-leasing. GML/Socomat’s consistently high standard of maintenance, these tanks can then continue in useful service for many years, the one featured being 30 years old but still going strong.