Written by Robert J. Matthews
Up to 30% of the nation's helium comes from the Federal Helium Reserve, a large underground store near Amarillo, Texas, which the government sold on Thursday.
The successful bidder, Messer, the industrial gas business, will get 425 miles of pipes in Texas, Kansas, and Oklahoma and 1 billion cubic feet of the only element on Earth cold enough to create an MRI machine.
As the facility transfers from public to private ownership, regulatory and logistical concerns threaten a temporary suspension.
Soumi Saha, senior vice president of government affairs at Premier Inc., which contracts with helium suppliers for 4,400 US hospitals.
We worry about this shortage. In health care, MRI scanners are the biggest concern.”
40 million MRI scans are performed annually in the US to diagnose cancer, brain and spinal cord injuries, strokes, and heart disorders.
Superconductive magnet-powered imaging equipment give doctors crisp, high-resolution images of body parts X-rays and CT scans can't view.
Saha warned that selling the government's nonrenewable element stockpile could worsen a supply shortage.