$15 million of helium sold in auction - KFDA - NewsChannel 10 / Amarillo News, Weather, Sports

$15 million of helium sold in auction

Amarillo, TX - The world's first helium auction took place today to start the process of selling off all federally-owned helium by 2021.

The auction sold a total of almost $15 million of helium, which was purchased by eligible bidders. The Bureau of Land Management is tasked by the government to establish an auction system for the sell of all federal helium to be sold to private companies.

Robert Jolley, Field Manager at BLM, said the auction is a combination of about a years worth of work to auction off about 92-million cubic feet of helium. BLM auctioned off 12 lots with starting bids at $100 per 1,000 cubic feet. "The first six are a million cubic feet a piece, then we have a couple of five-million cubic feet lots, and then we have an odd lot of 7,813,000," Jolley said.

The Helium Stewardship Act tasks the BLM to auction a certain percentage of the 10-billion cubic feet of helium left in the Amarillo reservoir each year until it essentially is all privately owned. "This year I'll sell 90 percent of my helium I have available, and I'll auction 10 percent," Jolley said.

"Next year I'll sell 75 percent of the helium and I'll auction 25 percent, and ultimately by 2020...100 percent of the helium purchased here in Amarillo will be purchased by auction."

As the price of helium rises in the area, it rises throughout the country within all the industries it supports. Because of the price increase, BLM is using this declining amount of helium as leverage to get the industry to look at new sources of helium.

Sam Burton, Assistant Field Manger and Helium Operations at BLM, said while most folks aren't aware of it, it's quite a challenge to get the gas out of the reservoir now. "Initially we were at 32-billion cubic feet and over the last 20 years that's all been drawn down," said Burton.

He also said this remaining helium is harder to retrieve, which is causing a challenge for the company to produce the gas. Within the next 7 years before company closure, the BLM will work hard to keep this gas flowing and fulfilling the congressional mandate.

Although by 2021 the company will no longer have ownership of these pipelines, the helium will remain in Amarillo to be accessed by private owners.

Jolley said he is very excited about the auction's outcome which takes away the sting of the company's closure within the next 7 years.
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