BOC ’s first Australian helium plant, the Darwin Helium Plant, was recently declared open by The Honourable Paul Henderson MLA, Chief Minister of the Northern Territory and The Honourable Martin Ferguson AM MP, Minister for Resources and Energy. BOC is a member of The Linde Group; an international producer and supplier of helium.
Helium is the coldest known liquid, with a liquefaction temperature of -269 degrees centigrade. This makes the substance important to the operation of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scanners, used predominantly in hospitals. The MRIs use liquid helium to cool the superconducting magnets thus making it possible to generate high resolution images of the human body. Helium also provides fast and controlled cooling in many industrial processes because of its high heat transfer efficiency. It is also used extensively in the space and defence industries, for laser welding, leak detection and the production of semiconductors.
The BOC plant has been built next to the Darwin LNG site that supplies the raw helium gas from a previously unused vent stream. This is the first helium plant in the Southern Hemisphere and makes Darwin and Australia a new source of this rare product, explained Colin Isaac, Managing Director, BOC South Pacific.
“The new plant will produce 150 million cubic feet of helium annually, enough to supply all of Australia’s needs with additional capacity available for export to other world markets. Australia’s helium requirements were previously met by importing product from overseas, typically from the USA and the Middle East,” said Mr Isaac.
“There is significant growth in demand for helium around the world, particularly for medical, industrial and electronic use. Helium has many applications and is used extensively in the medical, manufacturing, space and defence industries. Helium is colourless, non-flammable and chemically inert making it one of the most versatile industrial gases.”
The Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, The Hon Paul Henderson, said “The Darwin Helium Plant is part of the Northern Territory Government's push to diversify and strengthen the economy through local investment in long-term industries. With the opening of this plant we have further secured Darwin as an international gas hub entrenching our city as a gas manufacturing base.”
Today’s opening of Australia’s first ever helium production plant sees Australia self-sufficient in helium supply. “Australia continues to play an important role in providing our region and world markets with a secure, reliable supply of this rare commodity. Today’s official opening of the helium plant confirms Darwin as an attractive place to invest and a world class gas province,” concluded the Chief Minister.