— February 12, 2018
Helium is the second most abundant element in the universe but is rare on Earth. Helium has unique physical and chemical properties that render it indispensable to our modern technological society – it is requisite for the operation of MRI instruments and in the manufacture of computer chips and fiber optic cables. However, helium gas deposits are rare, and helium is typically a trace component of natural gases being emitted at the Earth’s surface. As established supplies have become stressed, the price of helium gas has increases from $18 per thousand ft3 to more than $200 per thousand ft3. Helium has been mined in New Mexico, and the location of helium resources has been mapped by Ron Broadhead, our principal senior petroleum geologist at the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources (see map). He is engaged in active research to better understanding the geological processes that can lead to helium accumulation in the subsurface, which may help find additional helium deposits in New Mexico. This is accomplished by mapping the helium content of gases by the layers, or strata, of the rock in which gases have been sampled and analyzed. Then, correlations are examined between the variations in the geologic setting of the gas reservoirs, and the helium content of the gases, which can be used to better understand why high helium gases are found where they are.