Among our vast natural resources, the U.S. produces 75% of the world’s helium found in raw natural gas. But this valuable byproduct isn’t intrinsic in every gas deposit across the nation—as a matter of fact, it’s considered rare. Most helium-rich gas is located in Texas, Okla., Wyo., and the Kan.-Colo., border where it is cryogenically processed and liquefied for commercial use in everything from respiratory treatments, MRI magnets, fiber optic cables, semi-conductor chips, computer hard drives, microscopes, air bags and welding to—yes, helium-filled balloons. And the world is experiencing a shortage.
Tumbleweed Midstream, LLC is a privately held company focused on extracting helium from natural gas at the Ladder Creek Helium Plant in Cheyenne Wells, Colorado.
But just west of Cheyenne Wells, Colo., near the Colo.-Kan., border, the Ladder Creek helium plant and gathering system has just become busier than a one-legged man in a butt-kicking contest. Tumbleweed Midstream’s Ladder Creek cryogenic processing facility now has quadrupled its production with three new contracts that will increase the plant’s daily helium output to more than 200 MCFD and 65 MMCF per year.
Tumbleweed also has announced signing new processing agreements with suppliers who will truck unpurified helium to Ladder Creek—a process called helium tolling. The company says it purifies helium from long-distance producers from Ariz., to Canada.
Tumbleweed Midstream acquired Ladder Creek and its gathering system spanning more than 1,000 square miles from DCP Midstream in Dec. 2019. Producers in eastern Colo., and western Kan., earn premium netbacks for their helium-rich natural gas extracted and processed at Ladder Creek. Tumbleweed expects its facility to reach full capacity in the next 1-2 years and will consider expansions based on demand.
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