2 min read

The Helium Shortage: Don't Go It Alone

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If you've owned or operated an MRI machine for even just a few years of the last decade, you know that the cost per liter of the liquid helium used to cool your magnet has risen, year-over-year, to record high levels. And, if you've seen the invoice for a helium fill from your gas provider, you know it's a tough pill to swallow. So what's to be done? Do we "grin and bear it" until prices (hopefully) come down? That's one way to handle it. Or, you could take some proactive steps to mitigate helium costs now.

Below, we'll share why the shortage is likely to continue, and how finding the right helium partner can lead to considerable savings and improved sustainability for your MRI services.

The Shortage

The overall global demand for helium, for uses ranging from filling party balloons, to cooling the hadron collider, to cooling MRI scanners (25% of annual global use), has risen to 8 billion cubic feet. With a current supply of only 5.4 billion cubic feet 1, a simple application of the laws of supply and demand explains the price spike. The fall in supply is attributable, in part, to Saudi Arabian embargoes on Qatar, one of the world's leading helium producers, alongside Texas and Wyoming. This effectively took about 30% of the global helium supply off the market.2

On top of the embargoes on Qatar, the U.S. is set to exit the helium business by the end of September 2021, as established by the Helium Stewardship Act of 2013.Even if new sources of helium outside the US come online before 2021, the execution of the Act will have a counteractive effect on their ability to increase helium supply worldwide.

Having a Helium Partner

Some service providers, Block Imaging among them, have an international presence and long-term contractual agreements with Helium suppliers. These agreements allow these service providers to minimize price increases and pass the savings along to the MRI users they cover.

If your facility uses an older MRI scanner without the benefit of modern helium efficiency tech, these lower rates could save you upwards of $20,000 annually in helium costs. Furthermore, if your facility is currently managing its own preventive maintenance and service calls on a time and materials basis, a service agreement adds labor and parts coverage. Choosing a partner for service and cryogen coverage can help you manage the peaks and valleys of helium costs. This, in turn:

  • Reduces overall equipment lifecycle costs
  • Increases ROI
  • Provides better care for patients by reducing unexpected equipment downtime

The Takeaway

With helium prices at their all-time high and an ongoing delta between supply and demand, the bottom lines of facilities that offer MRI stand to suffer for at least several more years. Navigating and mitigating these costs is far simpler and more effective when you enlist the help of a provider with standing relationships in the industry.

If you're looking for a partner to help cut your helium costs, our team is ready to help. Use the button below to start the conversation.