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Updated June 2023


What is Helium

Helium is a colourless and odourless inert gas produced by nuclear fusion within a star or by the decay of uranium and thorium within the earth’s mantle and crust. It is a non-renewable resource. Because of its physical properties (low density), it can easily escape through the atmosphere.

Helium can be extracted from the atmosphere, but this process is costly. Alternatively, relatively high concentrations of helium can be extracted from natural gas reservoirs at a more cost-effective rate.

Helium has many uses, including magnetic resonance imaging, nuclear magnetic resonance, welding, rocket propulsion fuel, and laboratory research. Other gasses, such as hydrogen, can substitute for helium in some applications. However, there are many applications where helium cannot be substituted, indicating a strong and stable demand for this element over time.

Royalty Program

In May 2020, the Ministry of Energy (formerly Alberta Energy) introduced a 4.25 per cent royalty rate for helium.

Because Alberta produces more than half of Canada’s natural gas, the province is well-positioned to become a key supplier of helium. Alberta has several competitive advantages. The province’s helium reserves are in the regions where oil and gas drilling has occurred. Alberta has easy access to the U.S., the world’s largest consumer of helium.

Production in 2022 and Forecast

In 2022, total helium production was 2.1 thousand cubic meters per day (103 m3/d) (see Figure S9.3) from two producing wells. The production and well forecasts involve weighing the risks based on the likelihood of meeting the project’s operational date and production capacity.


Thor Resources’ Knappen project was the only source of helium production in 2022. More projects are currently under development.

Imperial Helium, First Helium, and Avanti Energy are currently developing helium projects in Alberta with wells expected to be placed on production in 2023.

In addition to projects currently under construction, several new projects have been announced, with testing underway to determine helium concentrations. These projects are expected to move forward later this decade.

Limitations or Risks to the Outlook

A potential risk to the helium production forecast concerns land leasing, as many economic areas for helium are also suitable for carbon storage. Increased competition for land leases from other commodities could crowd out helium developments. With all the emerging commodity sources (helium, hydrogen, lithium, and geothermal), Alberta will need to design regulations that avoid future property rights and management issues.

Another potential limiting factor to Alberta’s future helium production is competition for capital with Saskatchewan, where the helium industry is developing faster.

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