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Durham University

Centre for Resources and Earth Energy Systems (CeREES)

Helium Exploration

PI: Professor Jon Gluyas

Student: Di Danabalan (Multidisciplinary CDT in Energy PhD Student)

People: Dr Colin Macpherson, Professsor Chris Ballentine (University of Manchester)

Sponsor: Statoil


Helium is the second most common element in the universe but is growing increasingly rare on Earth due to a combination of dwindling reserves and lack of information on the processes surrounding its generation, migration and eventual entrapment in the crust. It is classified a non-renewable resource since it cannot be recycled between the atmosphere and the mantle and is lost to space. There are currently 14 major helium fields which span 12 countries around the world including Algeria, Poland, Russia and Australia. Some of the larger fields are the Hugoton-Panhandle spanning Kansas and Texas, the LaBarge field in Wyoming and the Hassi R’Mel field in Algeria which is set to become the next largest exporter of helium and contains around 8400 million m3 in reserves. With regards to industry and science, the largest known use of helium is in superconductors as a liquid coolant. This alone constitutes around 28% of global demand.

Objectives are to:

  1. Identify the processes which lead to helium appearing in reservoir in economic amounts. This will approached in the same way as a petroleum system i.e.: Accumulation, Migration, Primary Migration, Secondary Migration and Escape/Entrapment.
  2. Generate a model showing different helium plays and the environments in which they occur. Within this I will also be investigating potential indicators of high helium reservoirs in soil gas and groundwater.
  3. By investigating these previously separate aspects of helium production I hope to be able to produce an overall estimate of where new helium eservoirs will occur and the amount of helium present in these reservoirs.


  • Poster: Danabalan, D., Gluyas, J.G., Ballentine, C.J. & Macpherson C.G. (2012) Helium, the world’s most elusive resource, PETEX, London, November 2012