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China’s 2023 Helium Imports at Record Levels

China is one of the largest consumers of helium at 15% of global consumption. Chinese imports for 2023 were at 865mmcf (+3% y/y), a record level and up 2% from the previous record level in 2018 (850mmcf). The supply major boost has come from Russia which has gone from a meagre 2-4mmcf/y since 2019 to 67mmcf in 2023 on the back of Russia ramping up its Amur helium plant. Volumes from Russia have increased from 1-2mmcf from Mar'23 to Sep'23 to 7, 21, and 25mmcf over the following three months. Qatar remains the largest supplier of helium to China. The US is the second largest helium source for China but Russia has almost caught up and we may see it overtaking the US in 2024. Australian volumes have dried up with the closure of the Darwin plant; barely 3mmcf was imported into China in 2023. Overall prices have been inching up every year and averaging at ~US$533/mcf (+28% y/y). Russian prices were a little choppy due to the small quantities imported in prior years but should stabilise at the current levels of ~US$460/mcf. The main growth drivers apart from usual requirements of MRIs and semiconductors involve development in quantum computing technologies and small modular nuclear reactors.

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