Helium potential sized up in northeastern Arizona

By OGJ editors
HOUSTON, Dec. 23 -- Good prospects and high prices could result in renewed exploration for helium in eastern Arizona, said the Arizona Geological Survey, Tucson.

All known helium occurrences in the state are adjacent to the Defiance uplift in northern Apache County, says an article in Arizona Geology by Steven L. Rauzi and Larry D. Fellows.

The first report of helium in produced gas came in 1927 from a noncommercial well. Potash delineation wells produced gas with high helium concentrations in the Holbrook basin.

At least 16 wells have encountered helium-rich gas in the Four Corners area, and several other wells flowed nonflammable gas that wasn't analyzed.

Helium in natural gas is generally considered commercial if the concentration exceeds 0.3%, the article said. The federally posted helium price is $54/Mcf for October 2003-September 2004.

The distribution of helium appears to be related to volcanic and intrusive rocks. The Hopi Buttes volcanic field in Navajo County covers 1,500 sq miles in the northern Holbrook basin just south of the Black Mesa basin.

The only current helium production in Arizona is from wells in idle Dineh-bi-Keyah oil field in northern Apache County. Mountain States Petroleum, Albuquerque, earlier this year began producing gas with 4.8-5.6% helium from Devonian McCracken sandstone and shipping it through a pipeline to the Newpoint Gas Services helium plant south of Shiprock, NM.

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