Party Balloons vs GC/MS- Managing the Helium Supply Shortage

Best Management Practices for Environmental Laboratories
Oral Presentation

Prepared by E. Redman
Eurofins Environment Testing America, 880 Riverside Parkway, West Sacramento, CA, 95605, United States

Contact Information: [email protected]; 916-837-4969


The past decade (2010 - 2020) has seen several acute shortages of high-grade helium as well as significant price increases for this resource, which have adversely impacted a variety of industries including the environmental testing industry. The most recent supply shortfalls occurred in 2019 – early 2020 resulting in significant reduction in the availability of helium for use as a carrier gas or purge gas in in analytical instrumentation, and negative impacts were experienced at many Eurofins Environmental laboratory facilities. Many laboratory facilities experienced delays in shipment or reduced allocations of helium, typically on the order of 25%. Meanwhile, market cost of helium (outside of long-term contract pricing) is reported to have doubled (100% increase) since 2017 and is expected to continue to rise even if additional acute shortages can be avoided in the future. Although usage of helium across all analytical laboratories accounts for less than 15% of the total US demand (6% of the world-wide demand) and environmental lab applications are just a fraction of that, the combination of acute shortages and rapidly rising costs can have severe consequences for customer service and profitability and a coherent management strategy for mitigating these impacts is obligatory.

In this presentation, Mr Redman will describe the helium management strategies implemented by the Eurofins Environment Testing America (EETA) network of laboratories over the past several years. To initiate this effort, Eurofins conducted multiple onsite helium usage audits to determine current usage trends and investigate opportunities for improvement. The product of these onsite assessments yielded a series of strategies that individual laboratory facilities could employ for minimizing their helium utilization. The review identified key areas where helium utilization could be reduced, developed approaches that would allow laboratory facilities to evaluate their usage, created self-assessment checklists, and developed monthly utilization metrics to use as a guidelines for assessing their usage against those identified as best utilization practices. This presentation will highlight and review the helium management practices that enabled Eurofins laboratories to assess, reduce, conserve, and monitor their helium consumption.