A first for the annual BLM helium auction, an apparent restraining order forced a judge to cancel the auction just hours prior to its start.
The United States Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management (BLM) operates a helium reservoir near Amarillo, Texas that is so large, it historically contained 15% of all of the stored helium on the planet.
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In 2013, the fate of that helium became written in the Helium Stewardship Act (HSA), mandating that the Federal Helium Reserve in Amarillo would close by September 30, 2021. All property on the premises, including the store of helium, would be auctioned off to the highest bidders in the privatized industry.
The reason for the HSA was to transition a government-controlled resource into a privatized system that would generate competition within a stabilized, public marketplace.
Reported by Phil Kornbluth on Gasworld, this year’s BLM helium auction was cancelled due to a temporary restraining order from a company that has actually purchased helium from the BLM in last year’s auction. Read all of the detail’s in Mr. Kornbluth’s article here.
The news this week of the BLM helium auction cancellation is unfortunate, but in some ways not surprising. Historically, the auction has been met with resistance by some in the general public, the gas industry, and even objected to by certain scientists.
The first BLM helium auction was conducted in 2014 and raised $15 million in helium sales for the U.S. Treasury. However, all of the helium was won to only 2 companies of the baker’s dozen present in the bidding. This caused some disappointment and even led to a hearing on new legislation over the process.
Subsequent BLM helium auction events seemingly went off without a hitch, continuing to raise more money for the Treasury, including a whopping $59+ million in 2017 alone.