The Division of Helium Operations
The Division of Helium Operations is responsible for the varied engineering, technical, and administrative activities related to the underground crude helium storage activities for the Amarillo Field Office. The Division’s activities include complex engineering services relating to installation, operation, and maintenance of gas production and injection well surface equipment; gas gathering and helium injection pipelines; cross-country natural gas and helium transmission pipelines; and crude helium enrichment unit, and other physical plant facilities operated and maintained by the Division. The Division of Helium Operations includes the Engineering and Technical Support Team, Gasfield and Pipeline Operations Team and Helium Enrichment Unit Team, as well as the Cliffside Gas Plant and the Satanta (Kansas) Maintenance Station. The Cliffside Gas Plant and Satanta Maintenance Station are managed by a full-time Plant Manager.
The Engineering and Technical Support Team plans and coordinates engineering work involving subsurface maintenance of withdrawal and helium storage wells including need and method of redrilling or cleanout work, treatment of wells with chemicals, prevention of water encroachment, control of movement of stored helium, and other engineering operations related to the underground storage of helium.
The Gasfield and Pipeline Operations Team manages the 450 mile long Federal Crude Helium Pipeline System originating from Cliffside Gas Field outside of Amarillo, Texas, and terminating in Bushton, Kansas. The pipeline is owned by the Federal Government and managed and operated by the Bureau of Land Management. The Team is responsible for the day-to-day operations of approximately 30 high-pressure gas storage and gas production wells, nearly 600 miles of gas transmission pipelines, 20 gas metering stations, compressors, buildings, grounds, roads, pipeline rights-of-way, heavy equipment, and truck maintenance. Other operations include welding, gas measurement, and analysis, cathodic protection, carpentry, and heavy equipment operations. On-calls and weed spraying and mechanical treatments are among the programs used to maintain access to pipeline control valves (approximately every 10 miles) and rectifier stations and measurement points needed to control corrosion. The pipeline typically delivers 3 million cubic feet of helium per day to the private helium industry refiners on the pipeline. Auxiliary facilities include the Satanta Maintenance Station in Satanta, Kansas, utility systems for fuel, gas, electric power, and plant and domestic water and sewage gathering and disposal. The Team includes technical skilled and semi-skilled heavy equipment operators and craftsmen.
The Crude Helium Enrichment Unit (CHEU) Team is responsible for the operation and maintenance of the CHEU at the Cliffside Gas Plant, with its related compressors, pumps, cryogenic equipment, gas drying units, heaters, digital control systems, and other auxiliary equipment. The CHEU is owned by the Cliffside Refiners Limited Partnership, but operated by the BLM. The Cliffside Gas Plant utilizes a unique industrial process, enriching helium from natural gas, using pressures to 1550 pounds per square inch and temperatures to 300 degrees below zero F. The plant processes up to 40 million cubic feet of gas per day, using approximately 4,000 horsepower and 3,000 electric engine driven high-pressure gas compressors, chemical treating equipment for conditioning gas for processing, and auxiliary and related equipment. Auxiliary facilities include utility systems for fuel, gas, electric power, and plant and domestic water and sewage gathering and disposal. The CHEU Team also maintains field well head compressors on the 12,000 acre Bush Dome storage reservoir and insures gas from 23 wells is blended to correct feed composition for the CHEU.