Helium is widely used in medical equipment such as MRI, aerospace and precision machinery. A global shortage of Helium spurred a new wave of exploration in the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin.
A Growing Market
The crude helium market is estimated at 10 billion $ per year and consumption is 6 billion cubic feet (Bcf) per year, with a 10% yearly growth. The price of crude helium grew 135%, from $119/Mcf in 2018 to $280/Mcf in 2019.
The US federal Helium reserve in Amarillo, TX, managed by the US Bureau of Land Management, sold helium to the industry since 1996, but it ceased public sale of the gas in 2019.
Deposits in WCSB
Helium is a by-product of radioactive decay of heavy elements found in the metamorphic basement, and can be found in accumulations at the base of sedimentary basins, often associated with other inert gases such as nitrogen or carbon dioxide, or in association with natural gas.
The Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin has known accumulations of gas containing 0.5 to 2.5% Helium by volume. Exploration for the noble gas is underway in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Helium is currently produced and refined in Southern Saskatchewan, with three purification plants operational in the province.
Other prospective areas are grouped around the Sweetgrass arch basement high in Southern Alberta and the Peace River arch in North-Western Alberta..
Canadian Helium Operators
- North American Helium, based in Calgary, develops and refined helium in Saskatchewan. It holds helium rights to over 5,000,000 acres of prospective land and drilled 28 production wells round Battle Creek, SK as of 2021. NAH operates a large helium purification facility in Consul, SK.
- Royal Helium, based in Saskatoon, is actively developing Helium properties in Saskatchewan, holds helium permits on 4,000 square kilometers of prospective helium land in southern Saskatchewan and runs a drilling campaign in Climax and Bengough, SK as of 2021.
- Imperial Helium, based in Calgary, explores and develops Helium properties in Southern Alberta, drilled 3 exploration wells in Cessford, AB in 2021.
- Avanti Energy, based in Calgary and Vancouver, explores for Helium in Alberta and Montana. It is building exploration projects in Knappen and Aden, Southern Alberta, targeting basement highs.
- First Helium, based in Vancouver, explores for helium in the Peace River Arch area of North-Western Alberta (Worlsey strike area), tested 1.3% He in discovery well.
- Thor Resources, based in Calgary, has 50,000 net acres in prospective helium region of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Montana. Thor currently explores in Coutts, Knappen, Aden, Wild Horse and Sweetgrass areas of Southern Alberta.
- Weil Group, based in Richmond, Virginia, explores for helium in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Montana and Utah. It runs helium production projects in Mankota, SK and Rudyard, Montana, and also plans drilling in Sapphire, AB as of 2021.
- The City of Medicine Hat, also an energy and producer company, owns production rights in helium prospective lands in Southern Alberta.
- Helium Evolution, based in Calgary, explores for Helium in Southern Saskatchewan, with 3 million acres of helium permits.
- Global Helium, based in Calgary, explores for helium in Southern Saskatchewan, with landholdings of over 1.5 million acres in southern Saskatchewan.
Chinook Consulting assists Helium operators with the same suite of services catered to the oil and gas industry:
- Geological Wellsite Supervision
- Drilling and Completions
- Reservoir studies
- Laboratory services