The BOC Darwin Helium Plant was officially opened this week by Paul Henderson, Chief Minister of the Northern Territory and Martin Ferguson, Minister for Resources and Energy.
The helium plant is the first of its kind in Australia, and has been built next to the Darwin LNG site that supplies the raw helium gas from a previously unused vent stream.
This is the first helium plant in the Southern Hemisphere and puts Darwin and Australia on the world map as a new source of this rare product, explained Colin Isaac, Managing Director, BOC South Pacific.
“The new plant will produce 150 million cubic feet of helium annually, enough to supply all of Australia’s needs with additional capacity available for export to other world markets.
“Australia’s helium requirements were previously met by importing product from overseas, typically from the USA and the Middle East,” said Isaac.
“There is significant growth in demand for helium around the world, particularly for medical, industrial and electronic use. Helium has many applications and is used extensively in the medical, manufacturing, space and defence industries. Helium is colourless, non-flammable and chemically inert making it one of the most versatile industrial gases.”
Like the LNG plant, the Darwin Helium plant has boosted the local economy. Other benefits for the Territory include the potential for extra shipping through East Arm Port and the expansion of contracting services and supply businesses in the local area.
The Chief Minister, Paul Henderson, said “The Darwin Helium Plant is part of the Northern Territory Government’s push to diversify and strengthen the economy through local investment in long-term industries.
“With the opening of this plant we have further secured Darwin as an international gas hub entrenching our city as a gas manufacturing base.”
“Today’s opening of Australia’s first ever helium production plant sees Australia self-sufficient in helium supply.
“Australia continues to play an important role in providing our region and world markets with a secure, reliable supply of this rare commodity. Today’s official opening of the helium plant confirms Darwin as an attractive place to invest and a world class gas province,” concluded the Chief Minister.
Uses for helium include:
· Liquid helium is the coldest known liquid, with a liquefaction temperature of -269 degrees centigrade. This makes it important to the operation of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scanners, used extensively in hospitals. The MRIs use liquid helium to cool the superconducting magnets thus making it possible to generate high resolution images of the human body;
· With its very high heat transfer efficiency, helium provides fast and controlled cooling in many industrial processes;
· It is used by deep sea divers, in an oxygen mixture, to avoid decompression problems
· Helium is lighter than air, making it popular for use in filling party balloons and blimps;
· It is also used extensively in the space and defence industries, for laser welding, leak detection and the production of semiconductors;
· Helium is used as an inert shielding gas in the arc welding process and as a carrier gas in gas chromatography.
For more information visit www.boc.com.au or www.nt.gov.au/dipe.