NEWS RELEASE: Wyoming Geological Survey Releases Helium Report

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Wyoming State Geological Survey

October 30, 2023 


Media Contact:
Christina George
cell: (307) 703-0761


 WSGS Publishes Report: Helium in Wyoming

A new publication from the Wyoming State Geological Survey (WSGS) focuses on helium, a unique element that plays a critical role in a number of industries. Wyoming is one of the largest producers of helium in the world—all of it a by-product of natural gas production in the LaBarge-Big Piney area of Sublette County. The helium occurs in a carbon dioxide-rich natural gas reservoir hosted in the Mississippian Madison Limestone.

“Helium is an often overlooked resource that is indispensable to a wide range of industries,” says Dr. Erin Campbell, WSGS Director and State Geologist. “This new public information circular highlights the development of natural gas resources at LaBarge and summarizes other helium occurrences across the state. Wyoming plays an important role in the helium industry, and we hope the public will find this report useful in understanding the history of helium development.”

Helium is inert, is a lighter-than-air gas, and in liquid form is the coldest refrigerant available. These are only a few of the properties that makes it indispensable to a wide range of industries. Over the past century, helium has played a crucial role in major advances, including welding lighter American aircraft during World War II, in Space Shuttle rocket launches, and in particle physics experiments.

Today, most helium is used in MRI medical imaging systems, a critical diagnostic tool used in hospitals worldwide. It also plays a vital role in semiconductor manufacturing, which uses it to create a controlled atmosphere for growing germanium and silicon crystals. Other uses of helium include as a lifting gas, in scientific and laboratory equipment, in other electronics components manufacturing, and welding.

Accompanying the circular is a dataset of natural gas compositions sampled from oil and gas wells across the state. The dataset contains gas analyses that measured for helium specifically, in addition to the typical components of natural gas. Analyses are compiled from the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Bureau of Mines, Bureau of Land Management, and Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. Each gas sample has been matched to a well catalogued by the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

Although helium can be found in groundwater, soils, rocks, and the atmosphere in very small quantities, natural gas reservoirs are the only accessible sources. During the last century, federal agencies analyzed helium concentrations in natural gas samples collected across the country in an effort to identify new sources of helium. These historic gas analyses form the bulk of the dataset accompanying this publication.

Public Information Circular 48, Helium in Wyoming, is available as a free download from the WSGS website. The publication covers production, the federal helium program, global market, and occurrences in the state. There also is an accompanying appendix with a dataset of historic natural gas compositions, which include helium.

The dataset is also available on the WSGS online Oil and Gas Map of Wyoming. Users can view the gas compositions in relation to the sampled wells and other data included on the map. The natural gas data can also be queried for specific concentrations of helium, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and methane.


Helium report

(Caption: The Madison Limestone, which hosts reservoirs high in helium in the western part of the state, forms the core of the Rattlesnake Mountain Anticline at Cedar Mountain near Buffalo Bill Reservoir. WSGS photo)