Many of the contracts for the supply of refined gas and liquid helium to very large customers take the long-term form of crude-supply contracts. Terms of sale to other customers might be under contracts of varying lengths and subject to varying pricing terms. Sales of helium in cylinders to smaller customers typically are spot sales, with helium delivered when needed by the customer.
The pricing of helium to end users is complicated by the wide variations in transportation and packaging costs associated with each user. There are distinct costs associated with the packaging and delivery for each of the above containers. The pricing must include the costs of transporting helium along the primary distribution channels and then delivering it to transfill depots for secondary distribution or to ports for ocean shipping to foreign customers. Estimating the costs and therefore the amount to be charged for primary distribution to customers in other countries is complicated by the high cost of ocean transport and the wide variations encountered, and the subsequent trucking costs from the foreign receiving depot to inland transfill points.