Worldwide Helium Gas Shortage Affects OKC Businesses

Monday, January 14th 2013, 10:04 pm
By: News 9

A worldwide shortage of helium gas has caused businesses scramble to get a hold of helium tanks throughout the metro. The problem is that there is no helium to get. The problem has affected the entire country.

Stores like Lil Dude and Divas in Edmond that distribute balloons have been on their last tank.

"They said they wouldn't be supplying any more helium and that I needed to give up my tank," explained Christin Lynch, who owns two stores in Edmond. "[The supplier's] exact quote was, 'man has used up all of helium.'"

Most people think of using a helium tank for something fun like blowing up a balloon. But it's actually used in hospitals for MRI machines and in other businesses that are really feeling the pinch with this shortage.

Hooper Welding Supply in Oklahoma City is out of helium too. It has been their business since 1945 to supply compressed gases to clients. Without filling dozens of helium orders, their business takes a 20-30% dent in their bottom line.

"The helium shortage started probably six months ago and it's the worst I've ever seen. We had a brief blip in the supply line a few months before that but now this is completely shut off of helium," explained owner Bill Hooper.

An underground reserve in Amarillo, Texas produces nearly a third of the world's helium. Right now the federal government decides how to distribute the gas.

"NASA gets the first cut and the department of defense gets a first cut too. Everything else gets divvied out to people like me and users," said Hooper. "The demand is pretty high but the supply is pretty low. I have no idea when it's going to get back to normal, if it will get back to normal."

That's driving costs up. The Federal Government raised its price on crude helium and Hooper says the cost of one of his standard tanks has tripled.