Friday, March 25, 2005

Where most of the Helium comes from...

I noticed a snippet in the paper the other day about Amarillo, made famous by Tony Christie & recently revitalised by Peter Kay miming for Comic Relief (Red Nose day). Apparantly 90% of world helium reserves are within 250 miles of Amarillo.

This got me thinking. From what I remembered of A level chemistry, it is a gaseous element and a finite resource. It is lighter than air so probably mostly ends up in the atmosphere. It is inert ( a noble gas) so doesn't really react with anything which means it would be difficult to extract from compounds unlike, say, hydrogen & oxygen (you just pass electricity through water to do that). So what is it all doing in Amarillo? Does sweet Marie talk in a squeaky voice?

A trip to Wikipedia reveals all. It is the second most abundant element in the universe (after hydrogen, of course) but most of the earth stuff left is in gas fields and derived from from radioactive decay. Amarillo is in Texas and there is a lot of oil there, and where there is oil there is also gas. It is also home to Cadillac Ranch.

I'll remember that next time I buy a balloon on a string.

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