Export of the newly discovered helium gas may be beyond next year as it will require establishment of local processing facilities first, the Minister for Energy and Mineral Prof Sospeter Muhongo has said.
He told the ‘Daily News’ yesterday that there seem to be no likelihood for helium exports next year given that exploration process expected to be the same year after feasibility studies and evaluation of environmental impact are completed.
“After the exploration, processing plant will be built because helium gas will not be shipped without being processed,” he said, ruling out possibilities of exporting the gas from next year as reported by some foreign media.
The Deputy Minister for Mineral and Energy, Dr Medard Kalemani told the National Assembly in Dodoma on Tuesday that exploration of helium gas in Lake Rukwa in Southern Tanzania is expected to start next year.
Crude helium must be purified to remove most of the other materials through a multi-stage process involving several different separation methods depending on the purity of the crude helium and the intended application of the final product.
Foreign media has reported that Giant helium-fuelled airships could soon be plying the skies – and a Tanzania- based gas explorer hopes to be joining them for the ride.
Helium One, a start-up crewed by oil and mining industry veterans, is teaming up with Lockheed Martin to work on using the US giant’s new airships to transport helium from its project in Tanzania to port for shipping. The company hopes that the partnership will eventually result in it supplying helium to Lockheed’s entire fleet of hybrid airships.
Lockheed plans to launch its first helium-powered airship for commercial use in 2018, and already has an order pending for 12 craft from an aviation firm in Alaska. The development of helium-fuelled airships for commercial use has only recently become possible thanks to military patents being available in the public domain.
“With the demand for helium increasing, this discovery of a nearly 100 billion cubic foot helium deposit in Tanzania will help ensure future supply,” said Rob Binns, chief executive of Hybrid Enterprises, the company that holds the contract to sell Lockheed’s ships.
“What better way to transport this product than with our helium-filled hybrid airship.”