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Tue 9 Jul 2013 12:10 PM

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Qatar launches world's largest helium refinery

Gulf state will be the largest exporter and second largest producer of the gas

Qatar launches world's largest helium refinery
(Getty Images - for illustrative purposes only)

Qatar, already the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG), has been confirmed as the largest exporter and second largest producer of helium in the world.

Qatari company RasGas on Monday launched the world’s largest helium refining facility. RasGas Helium 2 Plant is twice the size of its Helium 1 Plant and is expected to produce approximately 1.3 billion cubic feet per year when fully operational.

The combined annual production of the two plants will reach two billion cubic feet, meeting around 25 percent of the global demand for liquid helium.

Qatar Minister of Energy and Industry, Mohammed bin Saleh Al Sada, described the project as “a testament of Qatar’s strategy of creating added value by sound development and maximum utilisation of its natural resources”.

Agreements signed by RasGas will see Air Liquide receive 50 percent of the annual production up to 2032, while Linde Gases will get 30 percent and the remainder to Iwatani Corporation.

Helium is used across a number of industries, including electronics for superconductors, scanners and in the retail and entertainment businesses as a pressurising, lifting and purge gas for balloons or airships.

Since 2000, the world demand for helium has increased 20 percent and future growth in consumption is expected to be driven by demand from electronic manufacturers in Japan, China, Republic of Korea and Taiwan.

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