eiXtra distributed by NEMA - The Newsletter of Electrical Equipment and Medical Imaging Manufacturers

August 19, 2013 | Vol. 16

feature story
Helium Crisis

Helium (He)Without quick action by Congress to continue and amend the existing Helium Act (50 U.S.C. §167), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has indicated it will be forced to stop selling helium from the U.S. reserve, a major domestic source of this gas. In order to cease trading by October 7, 2013, BLM will need to empty the pipeline, close compressors, and implement other “shutdown” procedures commencing September 15, 2013.  Although refiners may be able to extend that date to September 20 or 25, because of a coincidental interruption from a major commercial helium supplier, any September shutdown by BLM will have a dramatic and dire effect on the U.S. supply.

The consequences would be severe on the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) market, and by extension there will be consequences for healthcare providers. Maximum global manufacturing capacity of helium is estimated at 240 million liters per year (20 million liters/month). The manufacturers of MRIs are estimated to purchase approximately 36 million liters of helium per year (3 million liters/month).

Current production problems have restricted output to roughly 175 million liters per year (14.5 million per month), or approximately 70% of manufacturing capacity. Because some industries have been able to substitute other gases or have found better ways to use the gas (e.g., gas chromatography switches to hydrogen and welding to argon), industrial consumers have been able to cope with global production at 70% of capacity.

Healthcare providers, including hospitals, will likely be impacted by the further constriction in supply.  Of the estimated 36 million liters per year of helium purchased by MRI manufacturers under current conditions, it is estimated that at least 15–16 million liters per year of those purchases is used to service MRI scanners in hospitals. If BLM stops production in September and there is a major reduction of global capacity under the scenario outlined above, less helium will be available for all purposes, including MRI maintenance. In the worst case scenario, it is likely that hospitals would have to reduce or cease providing MRI scanning services temporarily.

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NEMA News

Decade Passes Since 2003 Blackout, NEMA Establishes Two Programs to Improve Electrical Grid
In the decade since the blackout, NEMA has established two major programs that are focused on the technical and policy aspects of improving the performance of the electrical grid: the Emerging Technology Panel (ETP) and NEMA Strategic Initiatives (SI) program.

Seminars Highlight Manufacturing Opportunities in Vietnam
BECAMEX IDC, a development company specializing in Vietnam, will host a series of seminars showcasing a new industrial park in Binh Duong province, the My Phuoc Industrial City.

Defense Energy Summit
The Defense Energy Summit, which will be held November 11-13, 2013, in Austin, Texas, is an exciting gathering of the nation’s energy, business, and defense leadership focusing on how to accelerate clean energy and infrastructure solutions for the DOD. NEMA President and CEO Evan Gaddis will host a panel of NEMA member experts in energy-efficient and high-performance building systems, microgrids, on-site generation integration, and energy storage systems in order to detail how existing technologies can help the military meet its energy needs in an efficient, reliable, and flexible manner. 

Please use our 10% off registration discount code: 13NEMA10
[ The code is not valid on the military registration fee ]

Industry News

Itron Selected by Duquesne Light for Smart Metering Technology and Services
As a part of Duquesne Light’s smart meter program, Itron will replace the utility’s existing 625,000 electricity meters with Itron smart meters, implement sophisticated back-office data collection software, supply critical network communications infrastructure, and provide comprehensive professional services.

Tampa General Medical Group Selects Acuity Brands LED Lighting & Controls for New Family Care Center
Tampa General Medical Group installed LED lighting and controls from Acuity Brands, Inc.in its newly constructed Family Care Center in Brandon ,Florida.

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© 2013 National Electrical Manufacturers Association. eiXtra is a biweekly e-newsletter for electroindustry professionals summarizing key manufacturer, standardization, and regulatory news. NEMA does not sell or release subscriber's personal information and will never willfully disclose individually identifiable information to any third party without first receiving your permission. Privacy policy.