Distributors React To Helium Supply Shortage

The state of helium—its availability, distribution and cost—has been top of the news over recent months. By law, the Federal Helium Reserve is slated to stop selling helium at the end of this year, a move that would cut access to half of the supply in the United States. Even Congress has thrown its hat into the ring by introducing a bipartisan bill to prevent an impending shortage. In the meantime, some helium suppliers are cutting down on distribution while others indicate business as usual. Many helium suppliers continue to push the date forward as to when their supply will return to normal, leaving distributors scratching their heads and figuring out how to service their customers.

A survey of 100 GAWDA members conducted in late February and early March points to some troubling facts, notably that very few distributors are receiving all the helium supply they need; the cost to purchase the limited supply has increased; and they are turning customers away.

What are you doing to get your customers through the shortage?
Responses to this question centered on Sales, Supply, Allocation, Pricing and Alternative Gases. Most respondents indicated they are doing a variety of actions to serve their customers. A summary of responses are below…

SALES

  • Selling only to customers with contracts in place
  • Priority customers only, i.e., medical, research, etc.
  • Eliminated balloon customers
  • Not taking on more than we can supply
  • No new customers

ALLOCATION

  • Contracted customers get 100%
  • Allocating platinum customers

PRICING

  • Increasing Prices
  • Adding Surcharges
SUPPLY

  • Diversifying supply sources
  • Buying added product at higher costs
  • Sourcing our own balloon grade helium
  • No longer selling balloon grade; UHP grade or laser mixes only
ALTERNATIVE GAS MIXTURES

  • Converting helium-based shielding gases to other gases
  • Showing customers newer equipment with pulse mig process