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Winning helium hunt lifts hopes element not running out

1-trillion-liter reservoir of rare gas found in Tanzania

By
6:30pm, June 27, 2016
balloons

HEFTY HELIUM  A reservoir of more than a trillion liters of helium gas are stashed away beneath Tanzania, enough to fulfill global helium demand for everything from party balloons to MRI machines for years.

The world’s known helium reserves just ballooned. Applying gas-finding techniques from the oil industry, scientists uncovered a vast reservoir of more than a trillion liters of helium gas beneath Tanzania. That’s enough to satisfy the world’s helium needs for around seven years, the researchers announced June 28 at the Goldschmidt Conference, a geochemistry meeting being held in in Yokohama, Japan. The find may allay fears that a global helium shortage will hit when the U.S. Federal Helium Reserve — currently the world’s largest helium source — runs dry within the next few years.

While previously known helium reserves were discovered by chance during oil and gas exploration, geologist Diveena Danabalan of Durham University in England and colleagues applied geologic know-how to their helium hunt. Helium accumulates underground during the radioactive decay of

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