DOHA: Qatar emerged as the world’s largest helium exporter as H E Dr Mohammed bin Saleh Al Sada, Minister of Energy and Industry officially inaugurated its Helium 2 plant yesterday. The plant has the largest refining facility and makes world’s second largest helium producer after the US.
After the inaugural ceremony, Dr Al Sada told reporters: “As Qatar celebrates its National Day, I would like to present this achievement to H H Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Emir of Qatar.” The Minister described the Helium 2 plant as “a testament to how Qatar’s national resources from the North Field can be best optimised.”
Used in Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), airships, rocket engines, deep sea diving, cryogenic material and to estimate the age of rocks and minerals containing uranium and thorium and solar telescopes; China, India and Japan are biggest importers of helium. Qatar has already signed off-take agreements with three companies.
The Helium 2 plant incorporates highly complex and advanced technology that captures, extracts and refines crude helium from six liquefied natural gas (LNG) mega trains: RasGas’ trains 6 and 7, and Qatargas’ trains 4, 5, 6 and 7. RasGas managed the two-year construction project and now operates the plant which has an annual production capacity of 1.3 billion standard cubic feet (Bscf).
“For RasGas to develop, build and operate the facilities that make Qatar the world’s largest exporter of helium reflects the confidence our shareholders have in our proven ability to manage projects and operate facilities safely and reliably. RasGas is very proud that the Helium 2 project was executed and achieved timely production with an excellent safety record from the onset. As a global energy supplier RasGas is committed to building on Qatar’s reputation as a reliable international supplier of high quality helium,” said Hamad Rashid Al Mohannadi, RasGas Chief Executive Officer and Vice-Chairman of Qatar Petroleum.
More than five million man hours were worked constructing the Helium 2 project without a single lost time incident (LTI). This remarkable safety milestone is testament to RasGas and Qatargas’ commitment to creating and maintaining a safe work environment.
As a result of RasGas’ and Qatargas’ mega LNG trains, Helium 2 has doubled the production capacity of its predecessor, Helium 1. The two plants’ combined annual production 1.96 Bscf per year is expected to meet around 25 percent of current total global liquid helium demand.
“As the largest LNG producer with 42 million tonnes per annum and seven trains operating at full capacity, we in Qatargas are very proud to be part, and a major contributor, of the Helium project since its beginning with Helium 1 and now with the further expansion, Helium 2, which has allowed it to become the largest helium asset in the world and part of our continuing contribution to the diversification of our nation’s natural resources,” said Khalid Bin Khalifa Al Thani, Qatargas Chief Executive Officer.
The advanced technology applied in the Helium 2 facility has provided Qatari engineers with a variety of career and skill development opportunities. A large number of Qatari nationals have been involved in the Helium 2 project since its early stages.
The inaugural event was also attended by senior government officials and senior personnel from Qatar Petroleum, RasGas, Qatargas, ExxonMobil, project shareholders, contracted customers and contractors.