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Work on India's first helium plant begins

M Chhaya in Kolkata | May 14, 2005 19:24 IST

In a bid to decrease dependence on fuel imports, India has begun work on building its first prototype helium plant at an offshore oilfield near Pondicherry.

The move comes after the scientific community succeeded in persuading the federal atomic energy and science and technology departments about the importance of harnessing the country's own helium reserves.

Scientists from the Kolkata-based Variable Energy Cyclotron Centre, under the aegis of the federal atomic energy department, are collaborating with the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation to identify helium resources and harness it.

The first helium prototype plant is coming up at the Kuthalam offshore oilfields, about 30 km from Pondicherry, VECC director Bikash Sinha told

Helium has wide applications in nuclear technology, defence, space research and medical science, among others.

Sinha said almost all of India's helium requirement of around 10,000 Nm3 per month comes from the United States.

"The day the US decides to cut down on its supply to the international market, we will be in trouble. And this will happen because the US will not want us to develop technologically," Sinha said.

Experts say the US was also wary that its supply of helium to the international market could fall into wrong hands.

Sinha said the pilot project would get helium harnessed from the oil 'geysers' of Kuthalam.

Once the plant's commercial viability is established, more such plants would be built.

VECC scientists feel that India has enough reserves of helium gas in its hot springs and oilfields.

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