Wyoming Helium Shortage Sucks The Air Out Of Party Supply Stores
Mother's Day and high school graduations might not be the same this year, thanks to a global helium shortage. 75 percent of the global helium supply comes from three places - the country of Qatar, Texas, and the great state of Wyoming. Unfortunately, the recent helium shortage has poked a hole in the balloon business, causing prices to skyrocket at party supply stores, and impacting other industries like aerospace, electronics, and health care.
The retail chain Party City recently informed costumers that they may be unable to fulfill some balloon orders this summer, citing the worldwide shortage. While the future of helium extraction may be up in the air, there is an abundant supply of the natural gas here in Wyoming. Getting to it is the problem.
The Shute Creek plant outside of Kemmerer produces nearly 20 percent of the helium supply in the United States. The LaBarge field near Big Piney has enough helium to sustain domestic production for decades, but most of the land is federally owned and the expensive extraction process is regulated by the Department of the Interior.
In 2013, Congress passed the Helium Stewardship Act, which authorized the government to auction off the Federal Helium Reserve and mandated that federally owned helium, equipment, and property must be sold by 2021. The rush to buy the last of the government leases drove prices up 135 percent and helped contribute to the third global helium shortage since 2006.