Helium: Are There Commercial Resources in Myanmar and Elsewhere in Southeast Asia?
Dr Michael C. Clarke, M.E.T.T.S. Pty. Ltd., Australia and Dr Duncan Seddon, DS&A Pty. Ltd., AustraliaOriginally slated for a presentation to: AAPG/EAGE 5th Myanmar Oil & Gas Conference, 12-14 May 2020: A 2020 Vision of Myanmar's E&P Challenges: New Plays, New Technologies & New Research
A Narrative Preamble to the PowerPoint Presentation
Helium is a strategic industrial mineral element of which the occurrence on earth is relatively rare. It has become an increasingly important substance with the advent of super conductors (especially for MRI machines) and is needed for inert gas flooding during conductive metals welding and in the manufacture of silicon and germanium crystals and wafers. It is a commodity that has major strategic uses including rocketry, space exploration and nuclear energy development.
Helium is present in the atmosphere at a concentration of 5.2 ppm; this concentration is too low for economic separation and recovery currently.
Helium is a component of some natural gas deposits. It is created from uranium and thorium decay and is in fact a helium atom is an alpha (α) particle and is NOT radioactive. It is a mono-atomic inert gas and can occur in commercial concentrations in natural gas (NG) where there is associated granite type basement rock and "sealing" geological structures. Its concentration in natural gas can range from zero to over 10%, and depending on the size of the NG field, its chemistry, the value of the fuel gas and recovery and processing costs, it can be economic to recover in concentrations as low as 0.04% (e.g. from Qatar's natural gas).
Its value is around fifteen to twenty times that of NG. In some instances it can be the major target for exploration and, where that is successful, the primary target for development.
Helium supply was once a monopoly of the United States but now is sourced in commercial quantities from Qatar, Algeria, Russia, Poland, China, Australia and potentially Indonesia. The US is still a major supplier.
A recent Helium find has been in Tanzania, East Africa. Here Helium has been found associated with the Great Rift Valley, a complex of normal faults that have great depth. Such deep faulting can tap gases rising from the earth's mantle. A question that should be asked is: "does the Sagaing fault host gas seeps with economic Helium?"
This presentation looks at the potential for Helium in Myanmar and other parts of Southeast Asia, and its monetisation and processing systems.
Click here to view PowerPoint Presentation (PDF file)
Recent natural gas finds in offshore Myanmar, the Shwe finds, are important both for meeting Myanmar's future internal energy demand and for export as LNG. Those finds (and potentially others) could supply gas into the Trans-ASEAN Gas Grid (TAGG) as has been in planning for over the past twenty years.
Natural gas can be used for electricity generation, as industrial fuel, as a feed to chemicals and fertiliser production and as a feed to Gas-to-Liquids (GTL) synthetic petroleum production. GTL could complement Myanmar's petroleum refining capabilities.
With the increase in Helium demand through the uptake of MRI scanners and increasing industrial uses the search for new Helium resources has increased. In gas exploration it has become "de rigeur" to analyse gas samples for Helium, with a common suite of analyses being, Methane, C2-5, C6+, Carbon Dioxide, Nitrogen, Hydrogen Sulphide, Hydrogen and Helium.
If Helium is detected in concentrations greater than 0.04% then consideration should be given to the development potential of the find. The development study would include separation technology selection with respect to LNG co-production, Helium logistics and Helium marketing pathways.
The authors wish the promoters and managers of the 5th Myanmar Oil & Gas Conference - May 2020 best wishes for rescheduling into 2021/22. Ms Adrienne Pereira has been particularly helpful during this difficult period.
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SOURCE: M.E.T.T.S. Pty. Ltd. Website http://www.metts.com.au