What does NASA, SpaceX, the Department of Defense, the Hadron Collider, Google, Amazon and Netflix all have in common? Each are significant users of helium. To keep up with increasing demand, extraction companies around the globe are starting to turn their attentions to the gas. As of last year, Blue Star, an extraction company based in Australia, leased several helium prospects they identified in Las Animas County and according to their Managing Director Joanne Kendrick, it could be a significant contributor.
“Las Animas County is home to the historical Model Dome field which produced helium in the 1930s at concentrations around 8 percent, which is amongst the highest seen in the US,” said Kendrick. “As an example, the Hoff Heirs No. 2 well in the Model Dome field returned a test rate from the Lyons Formation of 500 million cubic feet of raw gas per day.”
According to Kendrick, Blue Star has undertaken proprietary technical work including petrophysical analysis of surrounding wells in combination with a regional soil gas sampling and geochemical analysis program which she explained has proven the play elements of helium charge, high quality reservoir and the presence of a good top seal extending across much of Las Animas County.
“Independent resource house, Sproule, has assessed a 3.5 BCF total P50 unrisked prospective helium resource net to Blue Star at its Enterprise and Galileo prospects,” said Kendrick. “Blue Star has assessed the geological chance of success at these prospects to be moderate to high given the proven play elements.”
With a highly prospective cache right below our feet, Kendrick said they are keen to begin their extraction operations along with looking forward to the benefits it will bring to the county.
“We pride ourselves on being a professional operator and building good relationships with all stakeholders to benefit the local community,” said Kendrick. “We prefer to use local contractors and people where possible in all phases of the project. This could include everything from site works, rig hands, construction, production operations support, and more. We also expect other businesses, especially hospitality and accommodation, to be positively affected.”
But the first steps, Kendrick reminded, will be to find out if they can access the helium from their leased sites before moving forward with establishing more permanent facilities.
“We have built up good relationships with local landowners and have negotiated several surface-use agreements allowing us to commence our drilling campaign upon receipt of our drilling approvals,” said Kendrick. “There is no guarantee that we will discover helium, but, if our drilling campaign is successful there are several development options available. The current preferred option is to use skid mounted, modular surface processing equipment. This type of equipment is readily available with an approximate delivery time of six months.”
If drilling turns out to be successful for the company, Kendrick explained that during the wait time for the facility, further low-impact development drilling would be undertaken to fill the production facility to capacity.
“Any success in our first drilling program will encourage more activity in the area with potential additional local employment and business opportunities in the area,” said Kendrick.
Many will recognize Enterprise and Galileo, as mentioned above, as famous space shuttles from the television series Star Trek. In fact, looking at a map of Blue Star’s prospects throughout the county shows each of them to bear the name of fictitious as well as factual space shuttles. This is a testament to the space exploration industry that continues to use Helium for a variety of purposes, Kendrick explained.
“A recent interesting growth area which also fueled the first helium “rush” in the 1960s is space exploration and rocketry,” said Kendrick, “where is it is critical in several phases of every launch sequence.”
In addition to the space industry, helium also plays major roles in more down-to-earth applications like tech and medical fields.
“It is a crucial component, and one which cannot be substituted out, in a range of medical devices including MRI scanners,” Kendrick said. “It is also critical in high-tech applications like the manufacture of fiber optics and computer hard-drives for improving cooling and performance of the big cloud-based service centers and in high-level scientific research, including in the Hadron Collider.”
As we continue to advance in the fields of medicine, technology, and space exploration, the demand for Helium has only been going up. According to Kendrick, high-tech uses of helium have been growing between six percent and 10 percent each year.