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Helium-3 Market : Future Growth and Challenges Analyzed

Helium-3: Introduction

  • Helium-3, an isotope of helium, is a nonradioactive, nontoxic, and inert gas. A rare quantity of helium-3 is available on the Earth. Helium-3 accounts for about 0.0001% of helium on Earth. However, it is present in abundance on the moon as, sun has been emitting helium-3 as waste product since billions of years. Helium-3 is used in national security, medicine, research, and homeland security.
  • Helium-3 is produced through nuclear decay of tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen. The most common source of production of helium-3 is the nuclear weapons program in the U.S.
  • Helium-3 does not trade in the marketplace. It is produced as a byproduct of maintenance of nuclear weapons and is then accumulated in a stockpile from which supplies are either transferred directly to other agencies or sold publicly at auctions.

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Key Drivers & Restraints of Helium-3 Market

  • Increase in demand for neutron detectors in military to prevent the smuggling of nuclear and radiological materials at borders is expected to augment the global helium-3 market during the forecast period. Helium -3 is non-toxic and has the property to absorb neutron and produce a detection signal. This property makes its adoption viable.
  • Rise in investment in well logging activities to analyze the porosity and permeability of reservoirs is anticipated to propel the global helium-3 market in the near future, as neutron detector is used in well logging activities
  • Helium offers cryogenic properties. Scientists use a mixture of helium-4 & helium-3 to achieve temperatures just a few thousandths of a degree above absolute zero. At temperatures below 2.5 milli-kelvin, helium-3 becomes a superfluid. This property of helium is propelling the demand for helium-3 across the globe.

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  • Demand for highly polarized gas has been increasing significantly in magnetic resonance imaging, as highly polarized gas allows MRI to get real-time visualization of a patient’s lung capacity and capability. This property of highly polarized gas is anticipated to stimulate the global helium-3 market during the forecast period.

COVID-19 Impact Analysis

  • Governments of various countries enforced nationwide lockdowns, as a part of precautionary measures to limit the spread of coronavirus.  As a result, export and manufacturing activity declined significantly. Many outbound sailings were cancelled and ports faced bottlenecks due to the shortage of manpower. This made it difficult for helium suppliers to get empty containers out of China and back to sources in Qatar and the U.S. for refilling. In turn, this has hampered the demand for helium-3.
  • Approximately 95% of helium is produced as a byproduct of liquefied natural gas. Decrease in demand for LNG is estimated to lower the production of helium in the near future.

Oil & Gas End-user Segment to Hold Major Share of Global Market

  • The global helium-3 market can be segmented based on end-user and region
  • In terms of end-user, the global helium-3 market can be divided into medical, oil & gas, defense, power plant, and others. Oil & Gas industry extensively employs helium-3 in well logging activity to analyze the porosity and permeability of reservoirs.

Asia Pacific to Hold Major Share of Global Helium-3 Market

  • In terms of region, the global helium-3 market can be classified into Middle East & Africa, Latin America, Asia Pacific, Europe, and North America
  • The helium-3 market in Asia Pacific is expected to expand at a significant pace during the forecast period. Increase in investments in exploration of helium-3 is anticipated to fuel the helium-3 market in the region during the forecast period. For instance, India has sent two non-manned lunar exploration missions – Chandrayaan-1 and Chandrayaan-2 – into space to explore the possibilities of helium-3.
  • North America is projected to hold vital share of the global helium-3 market during the forecast period. Growth of the market in the region can be ascribed to increase in deployment of helium-3 based neutron detectors at borders in the U.S. to secure the country against smuggled nuclear and radiological materials.

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Key Players Operating in Global Market

Currently, the global helium-3 market is at a niche stage; hence, a few manufacturers operate in the market. Leading companies operating in the global helium-3 market include:

  • ISOFLEX
  • Chemgas
  • PROMETEON S.R.L
  • LND, INC.
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