Helium Shortage and Price Spikes: Which is More Concerning?

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Helium Shortage and Price Spikes: Which is More Concerning?

Team TFS
Team TFS

The uncertainty in the market around the helium shortage continues. Industries, hospitals and scientific laboratories relying on helium gas are experiencing — since mid-2021 — the fourth wave of the shortage. Helium Shortage 4.0, as experts refer to it, is expected to continue into 2023 [1]. 


Gas chromatography contributes, in a very small part, to global helium consumption, but analytical testing laboratories who need to maintain helium as a GC carrier gas risk facing a severe impact from the recurring gas shortage. Service suppliers, along with contract testing and manufacturing QA/QC labs, need to ensure they can provide analytical data as quickly as possible. Delayed delivery is disruptive for their business and much more of a concern compared to price increases.


In previous blogs posts [2,3]  I wrote about the opportunity to significantly reduce helium gas consumption when running a Thermo Scientific GC or GC-MS system, thanks to the advanced technology of the Thermo Scientific™ HeSaver-H2Safer™ option for split/ splitless (SSL) injector, available on the Thermo Scientific™ TRACE™ 1600 Series GC.


What about the customer experience?


Whenever migrating to a different carrier gas (e.g., hydrogen or nitrogen) is not a feasible choice, due to unacceptable impact on analytical performance and data quality, reducing helium gas consumption is a viable solution to mitigate delayed delivery and avoid downtime.


This is the case of NOW Foods quality control laboratory in Bloomingdale, Ill., USA, serving their manufacturing facility with about 15,000 individual tests per month. They are using multiple grades of helium, depending on the application, being pretty tight with supply. Within the contaminants testing, they are using the Thermo Scientific™ TSQ™ 9610 GC-MS/MS for the analysis of trace level of pesticide residues and cannot accept any compromise on sensitivity, unavoidable if using a different carrier gas.


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"... If we need to sacrifice our sensitivity level, that’s something that’s going to be very difficult for us to absorb and still be able to feel confident in putting out quality data. ... with the implementation of the Thermo Scientific Helium Saver we aim to conserve Helium and minimize potential instrument downtime, without affecting the results, … not running out of the helium that we have, is priceless because that allows us to keep going with our operations and keeping the rest of the manufacturing facility going.”

-- Jonathan De Cenzi, Laboratory Manager at NOW Foods



Video: How HeSaver is helping NOW Foods conserve their helium   


View the entire interview with the NOW Foods laboratory staff as they share how smoothly they implemented the HeSaver technology on their TSQ 9610 GC-MS/MS.


HeSaver-H2Safer implementation does not require changes in method settings and will not impact the analytical performance of the GC system, while offering significant gas savings and extended cylinder lifetime. Comparative data with standard SSL injector are available for most common GC applications (e.g., PCBs, PAHs, dioxins, nitrosamines), showing equivalent results and method robustness.


The following application notes demonstrate data quality and helium gas saving capability for common GC-MS applications:

Additional resources





[1] Global helium shortage continues to impact many industries | CTV News

[2] AnalyteGuru - What good is Conserving Helium Carrier Gas only when your GC System is Idle?

[3] AnalyteGuru – Moving to Hydrogen or Staying with Helium? A solution to support both choices



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