The world needs helium for medical imaging, silicon chip production, precision instruments fabrication and much more beyond party balloons. In many parts of the world, helium is co-produced with natural gas, which provides what can be a highly profitable additional revenue stream. Welcome to an interview with Steven Tedesco, Ph.D., Running Foxes, who is actively engaged in helium exploration and production. Stay tuned for AAPG’s Annual Convention, where he will be leading a panel discussion with other experts in helium.
What is your name and your background?
Dr. Steven Tedesco with Running FoxesPetroleum. Over 40 years of oil and gas, mining and renewable energy experience. Graduate from Colorado School of Mines with a PhD, a Masters from Southern Illinois University and a BS from Northeastern University in Boston. Presently operate over 600 wells producing from conventional zones at less than 3,000 feet, at least five fields under waterflood, and several shut-in gas wells from both conventionaland coal bed methane reservoirs
Here is a link to a video interview with Dr. Tedesco on the current status and new directions in helium exploration and production: https://youtu.be/UhM58Wupr3k
How did you get interested in helium?
Basically for something to do with the gas we keep running into either as associated to oil production or with several of our shut-in gas wells. In addition with the worldwide He shortage at $300 to $1000 an MCF this made sense and seemed a natural fit for a oil and gas company.
How is geochemistry used in conjunction with helium exploration?
Typical surface geochemical methods are not necessarily conducive to finding Helium. Many of the Helium deposits are not associated with hydrocarbons but are associated with nitrogen. So doing a soil gas survey specifically for He is more critical. In areas where hydrocarbons are related then both He and hydrogen surveys. In the areas we are working we have already several analysis of He for producing gas wells. In some areas the natural gas production is shallower than the known He producing reservoirs.
Where are some of the most exciting developments taking place now?
Recently the focus has been more internationally in places such as Tanzania, Qatar and Russia. Saskatchewan also has has a lot of interest. The deposits in Tanzania are related to rifting and to date other than a few historic samples no actual testing
Is there anything that makes exploring for and producing helium a bit complicated? What do operators need to keep in mind?
The biggest issue and really the only issues is the cyrogenicplant that extracts the He. A small plant costs $1.2M or more. This is a large commitment. So He can be found in significant quantities in shallow reservoirs. However unless it is a large accumulation over a large area than pressure depletion will affect the economics. So carefullyevaluating the flow rates, reservoirs characteristics and reserves is critical.
What is the outlook for helium? Where are some of the key locations?
The outlook is very good. Besides party balloons, cryogenics and welding are growing with an expanding economy so there is always a need.
Do you have any recommendations?
Yes, when looking at existing data that is published recognize it has to be treated carefully. Most of the data was collected under non-controlled conditions such as DSTs. While the data may look good from a gas sample its the longevity of the gas stream and how the He will vary that is critical. Multiple sampling will allow to see the highs and lows.