Temporary Helium Plant Shutdown

A factory right here in Amarillo, will shut down temporarily to make repairs.

It just so happens that the Cliffside Helium Plant is a major player in the world's supply of helium.

"We're going to begin this evening taking the plant down in preparation for changing out some very critical components of the plant," said Leslie Theiss, the Field Manager.

The tower that has to be replaced with a new $300,000 tower, and that's going to force this factory to shut down for nearly 2 weeks.

Officials say the repairs must be made, but the shutdown will affect much more than just production in the Panhandle.

"It's amazing that our little corner of the world has a good chunk of the world's helium. 1/3 of the world's, and 42-50% of the U.S. production comes from here. We've been the helium capital since the 1920's," said Theiss.

The plant sits on a large natural gas field that covers around 15,000 acres.

At the factory helium is pulled from the earth and purified. During the shutdown, the helium will only be taken at wells in the field and not go through the factory.

What that means is instead of roughly 6 million cubic feet of helium, the plant will produce about 4 million cubic feet until the repairs are made.

But, Theiss tells us the consumer plants have been preparing for the shutdown for several months now.

The timliness of the repairs will depend largely on the weather in the next few weeks, especially that panhandle wind.