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Linde awarded supply contract for South African helium

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Hydrocarbon Engineering,

The Linde Group has announced the signing of an agreement between Linde and alternative energy company Renergen for the development of the Free State Helium and Natural Gas field near Welkom in South Africa, expected to commence operations in 2018.

The 187 000 hectare helium/natural gas field in Virginia, Free State Province, is the first onshore natural gas production site in South Africa and has proven reserves of 25 billion ft3. Helium is relatively scarce on earth and is often found trapped with natural gas in low concentrations, typically up to 1% by volume of the gas released. Natural gas from the Free State field, however, contains helium in concentrations of up to 3 - 4% by volume.

Under terms of the agreement, Renergen will supply Linde with helium reserves via an offtake contract, with Linde Global Helium being assigned the distribution rights. The Linde Group’s Engineering Division will provide the high tech patented extraction technology – a pioneering single system to separate the helium from the natural gas, then purify, compress, liquefy and store it ready for distribution. Linde’s African subsidiary, Afrox, will operate the plant and market the helium.

“Linde has worked diligently to develop this unique Helium resource together with Renergen and looks forward to receiving helium upon commencement of plant operations,” said Nick Haines, Head of Global Source Development, Global Helium & Rare Gases, Linde. “Along with our helium sources in the USA, Qatar, Australia and Algeria, this supply agreement re-confirms Linde’s position as the supplier with access to the most diversified helium source portfolio.”

Utilising the latest in land preservation techniques, Renergen has drilled wells, thousands of feet deep to tap the natural gas source dome, while ensuring minimal visual and environmental impact on the gas field’s landscape. Wells and wellheads are being interconnected underground via an intricate gathering system, which will feed directly into the Linde engineered natural gas and helium processing plant.

The Linde plant will reduce the energy needed and cut CO2 emissions of traditional helium from natural gas extraction processes and will represent the latest in engineering technology advances. The plant will be of modular design and precision manufactured in Europe before being shipped to the Free State for fast and efficient construction.

Adapted from press release by Rosalie Starling

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