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Helium shortage deflates balloon business
Charltotte Observer ^ | 6/20/12 | Claire McNeill

Posted on 06/21/2012 8:49:19 AM PDT by Impala64ssa

Every child who visited Elizabeth House Flowers on South Boulevard used to walk out toting a free balloon. But a long-running global helium shortage means the company – along with other small businesses in Charlotte and around the country – must conserve resources and even turn away customers. At Elizabeth House, free balloons are now out of the question. Helium, a natural resource, is usually harvested from natural gas reserves. The shortage, which has dragged on for a year and won’t end for months, is a simple case of demand outweighing supply, said Joe Peterson, assistant field manager of helium resources at the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. In Europe, a sluggish economy is producing less natural gas, he said, and that means helium production is also down. “There have been and there will be a lot of party balloon-type stores that will be impacted by the current shortage,” Peterson said. At Todd’s Flowers on Central Avenue, for instance, the florist’s helium tanks haven’t been filled since November. Without helium, the florist had to turn down about 25 balloon bouquet orders for Valentine’s Day, account manager Lindsey Ward said. Helium, a finite resource, does a lot more than inflate balloons. It’s also used in MRI procedures, fiber-optic cables, welding procedures and lab research, and it often has no substitute. Pennsylvania-based Airgas, which controls 22 percent of the U.S. market of helium and supplies many Charlotte companies, has had to prioritize its customers, spokesman Doug Sherman said. Airgas cut off customers without contracts, and even those with contracts aren’t guaranteed their full supply, he said. “Believe me, our business is moving gases,” he said. “We’d be selling it if we had it.” Carolinas HealthCare System hospitals haven’t had any supply problems, spokesman Kevin McCarthy said. “There are a couple of grades of helium, and the grade we get is a medical grade,” he said. “Our supplier has been able to meet all our medical-grade helium needs.” Likewise, Harris Teeter grocery stores have been unaffected. The chain continues to give free balloons to children who visit the store, said Catherine Reuhl, communication manager. And Balloon and Party Service in uptown Charlotte survives thanks to its helium provider, Charlotte-based Little Balloon Co. “If it wasn’t for him, we’d probably be out of business,” General Manager Carolyn Mason said. Mason said helium prices have jumped more than 25 percent since 2012 began, from $90 to $115 a tank. The shortage, she said, has necessitated price increases. “We tried not to go up that much,” she said. “But yes, we have to charge more.” Though helium is a nonrenewable resource, Peterson said it won’t run out soon. “For more than 50, 75, 100 years, there will be helium available,” he said. A Wyoming-based plant slated to open in December is expected to ease the current shortage, he said. In the meantime, conservation is key. “Now is the perfect time to begin conservation measures such as recovering helium from MRI machines,” he said. “In applications where the helium is used as a gas and it goes to the atmosphere, there has been some talk of being able to capture that gas and recycle it.”


TOPICS: Business/Economy; News/Current Events; US: North Carolina
KEYWORDS: heliumshortage
I first heard of this the other day from a manager at my local WallyWorld. Is this for real or another hoax? How can party balloons be inflated without helium? I could just imagine the occutards recruiting the kiddies, NO HELIUM, NO PEACE! We need helium. for the chiiiildren
1 posted on 06/21/2012 8:49:35 AM PDT by Impala64ssa
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To: Impala64ssa

One word, “Hydrogen”. Just tell the kiddies to keep it away from open flames...


2 posted on 06/21/2012 8:50:48 AM PDT by apillar
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To: Impala64ssa
How can party balloons be inflated without helium?

Hydrogen party balloons. Just don't rub them on your head or sweater to create a spark. Oh, the humanity!

3 posted on 06/21/2012 8:53:08 AM PDT by KarlInOhio (You only have three billion heartbeats in a lifetime.How many does the government claim as its own?)
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To: Impala64ssa

Congress forced the DOD to sell off its stockpile of helium. Now that’s gone, and we don’t have much of a stockpile. It’s too valuable to be wasted in balloons.


4 posted on 06/21/2012 8:54:44 AM PDT by Paleo Conservative
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To: KarlInOhio

Most of the U.S.’s Helium was originally coming from a well in Amarillo Texas. All those WWII blimps etc. got it there. Must be tapped out I guess...


5 posted on 06/21/2012 8:56:18 AM PDT by Huebolt (It's not over until there is not ONE DEMOCRAT HOLDING OFFICE ANYWHERE. Not even a dog catcher!)
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To: Impala64ssa
RE: HELIUM SHORTAGE

I FIND THIS TO BE IRONIC.

The 10 Most Abundant Elements in the Universe

Source: Exploring Chemical Elements and their Compounds; David L. Heiserman, 1992

Element Abundance
measured relative to silicon
Hydrogen 40,000
Helium 3,100
Oxygen 22
Neon 8.6
Nitrogen 6.6
Carbon 3.5
Silicon 1
Magnesium 0.91
Iron 0.6
Sulfur 0.38

6 posted on 06/21/2012 8:58:14 AM PDT by SeekAndFind (bOTRT)
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To: Impala64ssa

I’ll just put a tube on my “Mr. Fusion” and drain off the helium it creates.


7 posted on 06/21/2012 8:59:17 AM PDT by henkster (Why should I care? Why should I care?)
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To: Impala64ssa

There are ~ 250 full bottles of helium sitting on pallets over at the UCAR campus nearby, figured they’re either going to launch a big package or have a really big party.

let’s all talk like Donald Duck.


8 posted on 06/21/2012 8:59:45 AM PDT by JMJJR ( Newspeak is the official language of Oceania)
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To: Impala64ssa
Helium, a natural resource, is usually harvested from natural gas reserves. The shortage, which has dragged on for a year and won’t end for months, is a simple case of demand outweighing supply, said Joe Peterson, assistant field manager of helium resources at the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

I have highlighted the solution and the problem.

9 posted on 06/21/2012 9:00:47 AM PDT by 11Bush
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To: Huebolt

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Helium_Reserve


10 posted on 06/21/2012 9:02:47 AM PDT by andrew1957
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To: SeekAndFind

Helium is abundant in the rest of the Universe, but relatively scarce here on Earth. The reason? Helium can escape Earth’s gravity and dissipate into outer space.


11 posted on 06/21/2012 9:04:55 AM PDT by James C. Bennett (An Australian.)
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To: SeekAndFind

Unfortunately, most of that helium is found inside stars like our sun. You can go get as much as you want, but to keep from burning up I’d advise you to go at night.


12 posted on 06/21/2012 9:05:24 AM PDT by henkster (Why should I care? Why should I care?)
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To: apillar

my guess is that a 60/30,10 helium, hydrogen, nitrogen mix would be ok for balloons, non explosive and relatively cheap.

you only need 30 for the hydrogen because it has a much bigger lifting ability than helium which allows you put in a very cheap 10 percent nitrogen component.


13 posted on 06/21/2012 9:05:44 AM PDT by staytrue
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To: Huebolt

Just like many other resources, China is willing to pay more. This creates shortages.


14 posted on 06/21/2012 9:06:21 AM PDT by Ingtar ("As the light begins to fade in the city on the hill")
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To: Impala64ssa

Must be all the folks in this economy opting for helium suicide kits...


15 posted on 06/21/2012 9:06:56 AM PDT by OrangeHoof (Our economy won't heal until one particular black man is unemployed.)
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To: JMJJR

liquid helium is essential for low temperature physics work.

my guess is that is what it is for.


16 posted on 06/21/2012 9:07:34 AM PDT by staytrue
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To: JMJJR

liquid helium is essential for low temperature physics work.

my guess is that is what it is for.


17 posted on 06/21/2012 9:07:52 AM PDT by staytrue
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To: Impala64ssa
There's no shortage of helium on the moon.


18 posted on 06/21/2012 9:09:26 AM PDT by smokingfrog ( sleep with one eye open (<o> ---)
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To: Impala64ssa

Looks like there is also a shortage of paragraphs too


19 posted on 06/21/2012 9:10:28 AM PDT by al baby (Hi Mom)
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To: apillar
One word, “Hydrogen

Better still mix it with about 1/3 volume of O2, get a long string, glue black powder or pyrodex around the last 8 inches or so of the string, tie the pyrodex end of the string to the baloon (or tape it), start the string smoldering at the other end, and let it go. You can hear a large one from over a mile away. (The things one does as a college student)

20 posted on 06/21/2012 9:11:44 AM PDT by from occupied ga (Your government is your most dangerous enemy)
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To: James C. Bennett

Helium is also non reactive. Hydrogen escapes easier than helium but much of it is bound in other molecules.

Helium most likely is the result of alpha particle emmissions from radioactive decay and accumulates as a gas in natural gas reservoirs. That statement is without support and just my guessing.


21 posted on 06/21/2012 9:12:05 AM PDT by staytrue
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To: Huebolt
In natural gas drilling, helium is considered an unburnable impurity. If I had a well that produced a few percent helium and another that produced pure methane, the pure methane well would be better unless it was worth my trouble to chill the mixed gas and distill out the helium. With a lot of new natual gas wells being drilled, a lower percentage of the gas is coming from the helum rich wells in Texas.
22 posted on 06/21/2012 9:13:48 AM PDT by KarlInOhio (You only have three billion heartbeats in a lifetime.How many does the government claim as its own?)
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To: Impala64ssa

“Some scientists claim that hydrogen, because it is so plentiful, is the basic building block of the universe. I dispute that. I say there is more stupidity than hydrogen, and that is the basic building block of the universe.”
-Frank Zappa


23 posted on 06/21/2012 9:19:57 AM PDT by TurboZamboni (Looting the future to bribe the present)
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To: Impala64ssa

Helium....a government controlled commodity...

Imagine the government creating a shortage of a commodity....


24 posted on 06/21/2012 9:22:13 AM PDT by G Larry (There's no hope of a safe landing when you hire a suicidal pilot!)
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To: Impala64ssa
The shortage [...] is a simple case of demand outweighing supply, said Joe Peterson, assistant field manager of helium resources at the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

Boy, nothing gets by these guys, I tellya, NOTHING !

And ... why is there such a position as "assistant field manager of helium resources", anyway?

25 posted on 06/21/2012 10:05:15 AM PDT by Izzy Dunne (Hello, I'm a TAGLINE virus. Please help me spread by copying me into YOUR tag line.)
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To: staytrue

Also used to cool superconducting magnets in MRI machines.


26 posted on 06/21/2012 10:07:39 AM PDT by onedoug
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To: Paleo Conservative

“It’s too valuable to be wasted in balloons”

I agree. As stated it is a non-renewable resource. It has effected the welding industry as well.


27 posted on 06/21/2012 10:10:12 AM PDT by Parley Baer
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To: KarlInOhio
In natural gas drilling, helium is considered an unburnable impurity. If I had a well that produced a few percent helium and another that produced pure methane, the pure methane well would be better unless it was worth my trouble to chill the mixed gas and distill out the helium. With a lot of new natual gas wells being drilled, a lower percentage of the gas is coming from the helum rich wells in Texas.

That answers my question. I wondered why would there be a shortage of helium with all the natural gas production going on.

28 posted on 06/21/2012 10:13:34 AM PDT by Moonman62 (The US has become a government with a country, rather than a country with a government.)
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To: from occupied ga
My amusement consisted of soaking cotton string in a potassium nitrate solution, then letting it dry to make a slow, smoldering fuse. Muriatic acid (used for pool service) and aluminum foil liberates plenty of hydrogen to fill a few balloons. I would tie the slow smoldering cotton string fuse to the actual fuse of an M80, then turn the package loose with 3 big hydrogen balloons. It achieved pretty good altitude before the slow fuse lit the M80 fuse.
29 posted on 06/21/2012 10:13:34 AM PDT by Myrddin
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To: Myrddin

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a0PqmkKeNmc

Acetylene makes a bigger boom


30 posted on 06/21/2012 12:08:03 PM PDT by hattend (Firearms and ammunition...the only growing industries under the Obama regime.)
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To: G Larry

Put them in charge of the Mojave Desert and in a few years we’ll have to import sand.


31 posted on 06/21/2012 12:37:12 PM PDT by Trod Upon (Obama: Making the Carter malaise look good. Misery Index in 3...2...1)
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To: Trod Upon

“Put them in charge of the Mojave Desert and in a few years we’ll have to import sand.”

Too late!

They already killed a 500MW solar power plant there....cuz it might upset the tortise..

Actually, 500MW seemed too much like progress to the team focused on population control and killing industry.


32 posted on 06/21/2012 1:19:25 PM PDT by G Larry (There's no hope of a safe landing when you hire a suicidal pilot!)
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To: hattend
Those tubes of "carbide" for carbide cannons make a boom when a small amount is wrapped in TP, dropped in the toilet and ignited.
33 posted on 06/21/2012 1:31:24 PM PDT by Myrddin
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To: Ingtar
Ingtar said: "Just like many other resources, China is willing to pay more. This creates shortages."

Or to look a little further out: "Just like many resources, China is willing to pay more. This creates the economic incentive for producers to create more."

34 posted on 06/21/2012 10:01:54 PM PDT by William Tell
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To: William Tell

You are correct, in a free market. The Federal Government controls how much is allowed in this case.


35 posted on 06/21/2012 11:07:22 PM PDT by Ingtar ("As the light begins to fade in the city on the hill")
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