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HELIUM AND ITS USES Taken from a recent statement by BOC

It's important to be aware that there are distinctions between pure gaseous helium, pure liquid helium and impure gaseous helium. Pure gaseous helium has a number of important applications including analysis, diving and medical gases and specialist manufacturing processes.
Helium for balloons is a different product - it is impure and gaseous and recovered as a by-product of supplying liquid helium for the MRI market (both during the testing stages in manufacture and when installed at sites) and the cold temperature research market.  Impure gaseous helium cannot be used directly in medical MRI scanners or in other applications that use super-conducting magnets. Impure helium can also be recovered by the customer and reprocessed for use in the balloon market but historically this has only been viable for large helium users. A large proportion of impure recovered gas is already reliquefied to maximise the availability of liquid helium.  
For the future, there is still plenty of helium on our planet, however, much of it is in locations and environments that are not currently financially viable to extract from. Increasing demand for helium and continuing pressure on existing sources will force the market price for helium to continue rising and when this happens it will become economically viable to open up new sources. Making this investment will mean that helium will continue to be available for many years to come. Rising prices in the market will also drive an increase in investment in the means by which customers can recover more of their own helium. 

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