The plant was delivered in March and started operations in April. It materializes a contract Air Liquide had signed with North American Helium for the supply of a customizable helium purification solution using its advanced membrane technology. The plant will support North America Helium's site in southwest Saskatchewan, which is the largest helium production plant in Canada.
Helium production company North American Helium successfully started helium production at its Battle Creek, Saskatchewan facility in Canada, almost two months ahead of schedule. The plant produces helium with a purity from 99% up to 99.999% utilizing Air Liquide’s modular helium purifier technology. It has been producing high purity helium from the full flow rate available (up to 20 MMSCF per day) since the end of April.
The plant purifies the raw well gas containing less than 1% mol of helium into a purified helium product, utilizing Air Liquide’s membranes designed for high and medium-pressure stages. The skid-mounted solution also includes Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA) technology, in order to achieve the final helium purity. Air Liquide’s customizable helium purification solution has the ability to remove CO2, CH4, H2S, N2, H2, and moisture, producing purified helium, an offer that provides an exceptional value proposition for the helium industry. Air Liquide has provided all the technology including basic engineering, modular de-H2 unit, modular membrane skids, compressors, PSA skids and all required process equipment to produce the end product of high purity helium. The skid-mounted solution provides customers with quick delivery times and low total cost of ownership, while providing best-in-class performance.
The Air Liquide Modular Helium Purifier is fully customizable and provides a comprehensive solution with the ability to remove CO2, CH4, H2S, N2, Ar, O2, H2 and moisture, producing purified helium for the customer. The core of the solution typically includes multiple membrane stages combined with PSA technology.
Air Liquide membranes are based on hollow fiber technology for the recovery of helium from natural gas or nitrogen rich gases. Hollow fiber membranes provide the most efficient means of selectively separating gases due to the high surface area available for gas permeation per unit volume. In a raw gas feed stream typically consisting of methane and other hydrocarbons, nitrogen, other impurities and helium, helium’s very simple atomic structure allows it to selectively permeate and enrich in concentration much faster than the other components. When a natural gas stream containing helium is fed at pressure to a hollow fiber membrane, helium is selectively concentrated in the permeate stream, leaving a helium-depleted methane-rich stream as the residue stream.
Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA) technology consists of multiple vessels, each packed with adsorbent beds that perform a different function. In the first step, almost all components except helium are removed from the stream, producing a high purity helium product which is then further purified in multiple steps by changing the pressure of the adsorbent bed. Many additional steps can be integrated as needed such as compression, water removal, hydrocarbons removal, hydrogen sulfide (H2S) removal and hydrogen removal in order to achieve the desired purification.
Helium recovery from Lighter Than Air (LTA) ships
LTA ships for merchandise and people transportation are gaining a lot of traction in the current environment because it can be a sustainable alternative for air transportation. Such ships are typically filled with helium for buoyancy. This helium is getting polluted with air over time. At some point the helium concentration inside the ship is too low to fly. Given the high value of helium, it is highly recommended to use a helium purifier in order to purify the helium instead of replacing the whole load. Air Liquide has developed a standard, container size, membrane purifier that can be easily hooked up to airships for purification in record time with very small losses using Air Liquide’s best in class membranes. Air Liquide can provide a complete system with the fastest delivery that meets your specific project needs.
Overall process integration
Air Liquide has developed patented methods and technologies for efficient helium processing. Air Liquide guarantees the performance of its units and delivers a highly reliable helium source for the customer. The complete solution is constructed with skid-mounted units which are easily transported to the site and then connected in the field.