The USGS Seeks Public Comment on Helium Supply Risk
Helium is important to the U.S. economy, with uses including magnetic resonance imaging, lifting gas, analytical and laboratory applications, electronics and semiconductor manufacturing, welding, engineering and scientific applications, and various minor applications. At present, the United States is the world’s leading helium producer and is a net exporter of helium.
Helium did not meet the criteria for inclusion on the 2022 final list of critical minerals. However, the USGS has noted that several factors make helium a commodity that warrants watching:
- The Helium Stewardship Act of 2013 directed the sale of the Federal Helium System by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
- The global shift from conventional natural gas toward shale gas, which lacks recoverable quantities of helium, has the potential to reduce the supply of helium.
- While the United States has significant domestic helium-production capacity, recent geopolitical events may impact foreign production capacity.
Given the factors described above related to helium, the USGS is soliciting public comments that will aid the USGS in analyzing:
- whether there is an increasing risk of supply disruption
- whether that risk stems from supply from countries that may be unwilling or unable to continue to supply the United States
- whether those risks pose a significant likelihood of increasing the Nation's import reliance or create a concentration and risk of permanent or intermittent supply disruptions from a small number of international or domestic supply sources
- potential disruptions to helium supply due to foreign geopolitical uncertainty, military conflict, civil unrest, or anti-competitive behaviors
- whether such supply disruption would jeopardize manufacturing or use of products vital to the defense, healthcare, aerospace, consumer electronics and other industries
In conjunction with the sale of the Federal Helium System, the BLM is returning responsibility for collecting data and reporting helium production and consumption statistics to the USGS. Therefore, the USGS is also seeking comments that will aid the USGS in:
- conducting comprehensive analyses of the helium supply chain
- determining domestic helium consumers and their primary uses for helium
- identifying points of contact for helium producers, suppliers, and consumers who might collaborate with the USGS in data collection and survey development
- identifying additional types of information that might aid in future USGS data collection on helium
Under the Energy Act of 2020, the Department of the Interior is required at least every three years to review and update the list of critical minerals, including updating the methodology used to identify potential critical minerals and taking interagency feedback and public comment through the Federal Register. While this opportunity to comment is focused on helium, the USGS anticipates additional opportunities to comment as part of the ongoing process to review and update the list of critical minerals.
DATES: Please submit written comments by March 16, 2023
ADDRESSES: You may submit written comments online at http://www.regulations.gov by entering ‘‘Helium Supply Risk’’ in the Search bar and clicking ‘‘Search,’’ or by mail to Request for comments on Helium Supply Risk, MS-102, U.S. Geological Survey, 12201 Sunrise Valley Dr, Reston, VA 20192.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: James Mosley, (703) 648-6312, firstname.lastname@example.org. Individuals in the United States who are deaf, deafblind, hard of hearing, or have a speech disability may dial 711 (TTY, TDD, or TeleBraille) to access telecommunications relay services. Individuals outside the United States should use the relay services offered within their country to make international calls to the point-of-contact in the United States.
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