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South Africa’s Virginia Gas Project Produces First Helium

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South Africa-based renewables firm, Renergen, has announced the first production of liquid helium at its Virginia Gas Plant, located in the Free State Province of the Southern African country.

In a press statement, Stefano Marani, CEO of Renergen, stated that “Having the helium plant in operation and producing liquid helium is a truly spectacular achievement,” adding that, “All components of the Phase 1 plant are now in operation, and South Africa joins the ranks of only eight countries in the world to produce this rare and valuable liquid.”

The Virginia Gas Project represents South Africa’s first commercial-scale liquefied natural gas plant, with the milestone of first production positioning Renergen as South Africa’s first helium producer. According to Marani, “This milestone is a major catalyst [both] for Renergen and South Africa.”

With South Africa consuming approximately 200kg of helium per day, according to Renergen, the liquid helium produced from the Virginia plant will be predominantly used for exports to meet global demand, with countries such as the U.S. consuming roughly 35,000 kgs of helium per day, comparatively.

The company’s liquid helium module has a production capacity of 350kg a day, and is set to be expanded from 2026 with the company earmarking between R12 billion and R15 billion for the expansion project.

With the Virginia Gas Project site estimated to hold between 30 and 344 billion cubic feet of helium reserves and the global helium market anticipated to expand from $2.7 billion in 2021 to $3.9 billion by 2031, South Africa is expected to play a crucial role in the rare commodities sector for years to come.

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Nicholas Nhede

Nicholas Nhede

Nicholas is an energy sector journalist with a passion on how technology and diversification of the energy mix can be used to address energy sector challenges. Nicholas holds a diploma in Journalism and Communication studies and has been covering energy-related topics including the Internet of Things, distributed energy and digitalisation since 2015.