Go into your neighborhood party store for some helium filled balloons, and there's a good chance they'll be out of helium. We, too, at Rochester Play! have provided and offered helium filled balloons over the years. Unfortunately, there is currently another world-wide helium shortage (yes, this isn't the first time - see below), and helium prices have jumped over 135% in just a year throughout 2018.

Fun Facts:

  • Helium is a light element, less dense than air, which is why the gas causes balloons and blimps to float, and that’s also how it can easily escape if not collected and stored properly in reserves.
  • Helium is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, non-toxic, inert, monatomic gas, and is the first of the noble gas group on the periodic table of the elements.
  • ​Helium is recovered in very small quantities from natural gas production.
  • Helium is a non-renewable resource, which means that once earth's helium is gone, it's gone.
  • Helium gas is less dense than air, so when it escapes its containment, it floats out into space.
  • ​​After hydrogen, helium has the second lowest atomic number — 2, and it has the lowest boiling point of all elements.
  • This isn't the first time there's been a helium shortage, in 1958, the balloons used in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade were filled with air rather than helium due to a shortage.
  • For a long time, the U.S. has been the world's largest producer of helium, accounting for 40% of the world's supply. Number two is Algeria, and number three is Qatar.
  • ​Helium was first mined in 1903 in Dexter, Kansas, when an oil drilling operation produced a gas geyser that wouldn't burn and was soon identified as helium.
  • In the U.S., the fields with recoverable helium are all located within a fairly short distance of one another in the southwest states of Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and Wyoming.
  • ​75% of the world's helium now comes from just three locations: Ras Laffan Industrial City in Qatar, ExxonMobil in Wyoming, and the U.S. National Helium Reserve in Amarillo, Texas.
  • At the National Helium Reserve, the gas is compressed at the surface, and stored in a layer of dolomite rock more than 3,000 feet underground. A thick layer of salt keeps the gas in place and dolomite rock is one of the only geological formations on earth that can hold large quantities of helium.
  • In the past 15 years, new helium plants were built in Ras Laffam, Qatar and Skikda, Algeria and recently researchers from Durham and Oxford universities have found a new helium field in Tanzania's Rift Valley in East Africa.
  • Helium is primarily used to cool the superconducting magnets within Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scanners. It is also used to make silicon wafers, which are the precursor of integrated circuits, and it is used in photovoltaics, or solar cells.