3.28 Bcf in 1990 to 6.3 Bcf in 2008—a growth rate of 3.6 percent per year—and included a growth spurt of 7.8 percent per year between 1996 and 2001. Historically, the United States has been the consumer of most of the helium produced each year, but consumption in the United States has flattened in recent years, while consumption outside the United States has grown significantly (see Figures 3.1 and 3.2). The consumption of helium outside the United States has exceeded domestic consumption since 2007.
As noted in Chapter 1 in the section entitled “Review of the 2000 Report’s Conclusions,” the lack of sufficient data, especially on foreign markets, makes it difficult to forecast demands for helium beyond the near term. Accordingly, any attempt to determine where the helium market will be more than a few years into the future should be treated as a rough estimate rather than an accurate prediction. With that proviso, Figure 3.3 estimates demand for refined helium in the U.S. and foreign markets through 2020. A drop of 10 percent in worldwide demand, or 650 MMcf, is forecast for 2009 owing to the worldwide recession. In addition, this short-term scenario assumes some reduction in both U.S. and foreign use of helium from invigorated recycling of spent helium and conservation owing to