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Qatar Helium II Refining Facility, Ras Laffan Industrial City, Qatar

Key Data


The Qatar Helium 2 project will be the world's largest helium refining facility in Ras Laffan Industrial City, Qatar. The $500m project broke ground in May 2010.

The facility will produce 38 million cubic metres of helium a year to position Qatar as the second-largest helium producer in the world.

With a combined annual production of 58 million cubic metres, Qatar will account for 25% of the world's helium production. The first Qatar helium facility, launched in 2005, contributes about 20 million cubic metres a year.

Companies involved with the refining facility

The project is a partnership between Qatar Liquefied Gas Company 2 (Qatargas 2), Qatar Liquefied Gas Company 3 (Qatargas 3), Qatar Liquefied Gas Company 4 (Qatargas 4) and Ras Laffan Liquefied Natural Gas Company (3).

RasGas Company will manage and operate the facility when production begins in May 2013.

Qatar Helium II process technology and design

The plant will capture and process helium gas recovered from Qatar's North Field. Crude helium extracted by the helium extraction units will be sent to the Air Liquide-manufactured helium liquefier.

"The facility will produce 38 million cubic metres of helium a year."

Processing will involve purifying and liquefying of the crude helium using Air Liquide's patented advanced technology. Helium will be separated from the raw gas stream in two phases.

In the first phase the crude helium will be separated within the liquefaction area of the plant. All impurities including nitrogen, hydrogen and methane will be removed during the second phase.

Within the upgrader unit, helium will be purified to 99.99% purity following a pressure swing adsorption process.

The pure gas will be liquefied using a number of turbo expanders and brazed aluminium plate heat exchangers. Following liquefaction, the gas will be stored in a Dewar or storage drum at -269°C. The storage drum will be equipped with a vacuum jacket and a thermal shield.

"Qatar will account for 25% of the world's helium production."

The new facility is being constructed adjacent to the Qatar Helium I facility. It will include an extraction unit, a purification unit and the world's largest helium liquefier that will be manufactured by Air Liquide.

Helium extraction units in RasGas LNG trains 6 and 7 will recover the helium generated as a by product from the facilities.

The liquid helium will be stored in insulated pipes. The pipes will have inner diameter of two to three inches and outer diameter of 16 inches.

The plant has been installed with Cryo Diffusion's helium valve boxes and vacuum insulated lines in 2012, to provide better transportation of liquid helium by minimising losses.

Engineering, procurement and construction

The engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract for the project was awarded to Air Liquide on 6 May 2010. Chiyoda Al Mana Engineering Company (Chiyoda) was appointed as the EPC management services provider for the helium extraction units and utilities of the project in September 2010.

Off-take agreements were signed with Air Liquide, Iwatani Corporation and Linde Gases, a Linde Group division, in the second half of 2010. Air Liquide will procure 50% of the total helium produced. Linde Gases will acquire 30% of the output, while Iwatani Corporation will get 20% of the annual production up to 2032.

Feedstock at Qatar's refining complex

The feedstock for the plant will be supplied by the partners in the joint venture.

One third of the crude helium will be supplied from RasGas 3 trains 6 and 7, which began operations in August 2009 and February 2010 respectively. Each train has an annual production capacity of 7.8Mt of LNG.

The remaining LNG will be procured from Qatargas LNG trains 4, 5, 6 and 7. Qatargas trains 4 and 5 began production in 2009 and have an individual capacity of 7.8Mtpa. Trains 6 and 7, which were launched in November 2010 and February 2011 respectively, also operate at 7.8Mt annual capacity.

Market growth and global use of helium

The global consumption of helium was 6.3 billion cubic feet in 2012. Helium is used for a number of industrial and medical applications, including MRI scanners, welding and fibre optics.

By 2020 the global demand for helium is expected to rise by 30% from the current six billion cubic feet a year. A large portion of this rising demand will be met by Qatar's North Field reservoir, which hosts the world's largest proven helium reserves.

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