Legislation to determine future of Amarillo Helium Plant

Amarilloâ??s helium plant is looking for guidance from Congress to determine how their mission will extend past 2018.ã??

The plant will be paying off its debt to the U.S. Treasury earlier than expected, in October this year. Theyâ??ll be fulfilling contractual gas obligations by 2018. After that the plant will have more helium in the reserve than was anticipated.ã??

Samuel Burton, the Assistant Manager of Helium Operations says "weâ??re looking for additional guidance as to what exactly the intent is in how to manage the resource, how we sell it off, how we offer for sale the remaining helium thatâ??s in the ground."ã??

A Senate Bill last year, originally authored by former New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman, would maintain a steady supply for scientists as they transition to private suppliers. Current legislation regulating the use of the helium is due to run out at the end of 2014. Bingamanâ??s bill would extend the period the federal government would have to sell off its reserves as mandated by a 1996 law. If nothing is done some companies have warned of disruptions in industries such as semiconductors and fiber optics.ã??

The Bureau of Land Management says there is not a shortage of the gas.ã??

Joe Peterson, Assistant Manager of Helium Resources says, "We are definitely not running out of helium. There will be helium available for at least the next fifty to a hundred years. However, we're currently undergoing what's called a short time supply/demand imbalance."ã??

Plants in Wyoming, Algeria, Poland and Australia are also producing refined helium.