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Release Date: 01/21/14
Contacts: Donna Hummel , 505-954-2018  
  Jeff Krauss , 202-912-7410  

Federal Crude Helium Sale Nets Over $38 Million for American Taxpayers

 Federal Agency Begins Implementing Helium Stewardship Act

Washington, DC – As part of President Obama’s commitment to ensure a fair return to American taxpayers for federally-managed natural resources, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has sold 400 million cubic feet of crude helium from the Federal Helium Reserve, generating $38 million in revenue.  The January 17 sale implements the initial phase of the Helium Stewardship Act of 2013 (HSA).

Two firms received the bulk of the helium: Air Products was awarded the largest amount at 129,600 million cubic feet (Mcf) while Praxair, Inc. was awarded 122,400 Mcf.  The full results of the sale are available at the BLM Amarillo Field Office website at

"We're pleased with the results of this helium sale," BLM Principal Deputy Director Neil Kornze said.  "It's critical that we get a fair return on this national resource that is so important for health care innovation and technology development.  We are also proud to have cleared the debt on this program in 2013, two years ahead of schedule."

The helium was offered at a price of $95 per Mcf, which is up from $84 per Mcf in 2013, reflecting a change in methodology designed to more closely match market forces, encourage industry conservation and provide a higher return for American taxpayers.

In September 2013, Congress passed the HSA to continue the Federal helium program.  The HSA succeeds the Helium Privatization Act and allows for continued operation of the federally managed helium reservoir and pipeline near Amarillo, Texas, which supplies about 42 percent of domestic demand for crude helium and about 35 percent of the world’s demand. The intent of the HSA is to allow for a smooth transition to private means of helium sourcing as the reserve is steadily drawn down.  The passage of the legislation allowed the BLM to continue funding the helium operations.  The BLM had spent an initial $272 million to buy helium and then stockpile it in federal storage.  The BLM has now paid off this debt, which totaled about $1.4 billion of principal and interest, to the U.S. Treasury two years in advance of the 2015 timeline.

Helium is an essential resource for the aerospace industry, optical fiber manufacturing and medical use, including lung tissue visualization, heart catheterization methods and medical lasers. The lighter than air gas is also used in aluminum helium arc welding, scuba diving mixtures and national defense applications such as rocket engine testing, scientific balloons and blimps. Surveillance devices and air to air missile are additional military uses for helium.

The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land, the most of any Federal agency. This land, known as the National System of Public Lands, is primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The BLM's mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. In Fiscal Year 2015, the BLM generated $4.1 billion in receipts from activities occurring on public lands.

Last updated: 01-31-2014