Linde, Renergen Develop South Africa Helium

GASES giant Linde Group and renewable energy company Renergen have signed an agreement to develop a natural gas field and helium reserve near Welkom, South Africa. The Free State Helium and Natural Gas field covers 187,000 hectares and has proven reserves of 25bn ft3 of gas. It contains 3–4% helium, which is typically found at concentrations of below 1%. Helium is vital for various medical applications, including cryogenics and MRI scans, as well as for many industrial processes. While it is not especially rare, it does not occur at high concentrations naturally. Under the terms of the agreement, Linde will sign an offtake contract with Renergen for the supply of helium reserves. Linde’s engineering division will provide its patented, single-system technology, to extract, purify, compress, liquefy and store helium ready for distribution. The plant itself, which will be modular and manufactured in Europe for assembly onsite, will be operated by Linde’s African subsidiary, Afrox. Linde Global Helium will be given the distribution rights to the helium. Renergen’s wellheads are all interconnected underground to minimise the visual impact on the landscape, and will feed directly into Linde’s processing plant. The companies expect the setup to be operational by 2018. “The discovery and commercialisation of the Free State onshore Helium/natural gas field is great news for industry, healthcare and the South African economy as a whole,” said Afrox managing director Schalk Venter. “The signing of this agreement marks an historic moment in bolstering South Africa’s self-sufficiency in terms of helium production and alternative and renewable natural gas energy resources.”

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