But out of the vastness of southwestern Saskatchewan, a solution is emerging
Out of the vastness of southwestern Saskatchewan, a solution is emerging to a little-discussed problem — a gap in the global helium supply chain.
In recent years, as fears of a helium shortage creeped up, prospectors have journeyed to the Canadian heartland and drilled deep into the earth in search of helium; and at least one company there has already started commercially producing gas.
The ramifications of a helium pinch came into focus earlier this month when New Jersey-based Party City announced it had raised prices in certain categories of balloon in the face of “helium headwinds.” Its chief executive said “mother nature” would determine whether there’s enough helium to meet the company’s demand; and he demurred on whether prices would ever come down.
Party balloons, however, constitute only a small percentage of the helium market; and its use in magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, machines, space exploration, semiconductors and other technology applications has stoked wider concerns that a price spike could disrupt more than the sale of balloons — and the Instagram and other social media posts for which balloons form essential backdrops.
“Party City is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Nicholas Snyder, chief executive of North American Helium, who divides his time between New York and Calgary, and whose company has been exploring in Saskatchewan near the Montana border.