atural gas producer Renergen has announced that it has produced its first amount of liquid helium at its Virginia Gas Project based in South Africa.
The Virginia Gas Project, owned and operated by Renergen’s subsidiary Tetra4, is South Africa’s only onshore petroleum plant.
It covers an area that includes Welkom, Virginia, and Theunissen. Renergen estimates that the helium reserve at the site could be as large as 9.74 billion cubic meters, making it larger than the known reserves of the entire United States.
According to Transparency Market Research, an international market analysis firm, the bulk liquid helium industry is expected to be worth $2.7 billion.
Liquid helium is a colourless, odourless, tasteless, non-toxic and non-flammable liquid that is used to cool materials to extremely low temperatures; it is also used as a coolant in certain nuclear reactors and aerospace (SpaceX and Nasa) and cryogenic research.
Furthermore, it is used in magnets for MRI machines, particle accelerators and other scientific equipment.
South Africa is now amongst eight other countries worldwide in the world that produces the rare and valuable liquid, said Stefano Marani, the CEO of Renergen.
“Having the helium plant in operation and producing liquid helium is a truly spectacular achievement by the team who went above and beyond to achieve the major and critical milestone,” Marani said.
The group said that it has now become the world’s newest producer of liquid helium, and its helium module is now operational and being optimised.
In December, the group announced that it was making good progress on its Virginia Gas Project, but the commission was slower than expected due to a leak in the vacuum walls of the helium system pipes.
As reported by DailyInvestor, the leak was located and repaired in December, allowing the company to proceed to the final stage of commissioning, which included the integration of the helium compressor.
Renergen’s share price jumped almost 9% on the news.