Emerging natural gas and helium producer Renergen says its Virginia project, in South Africa’s Free State province, has the potential to be the answer to the world’s helium shortage woes following a recent helium prospective resources report, which confirms that the project has undiscovered gross recoverable helium volumes of more than 344-billion cubic feet (bcf).

With the world consuming an average of 80 t of helium a day, Renergen CEO Stefano Marani tells Engineering News that the report has given the company the necessary data to begin planning Phase 2 of the project, “and [the company’s] intention is that Phase 2 will supply enough helium to overcome long-term shortfalls”.

Should Renergen recover 100% of the updated helium resources, the South African project alone could provide enough helium for the world’s consumption for the next six decades.

The significant milestone forms part of the company’s ongoing assessment and development of the Virginia gas project, during which Renergen commissioned Edinburgh University geochemistry senior lecturer Dr Stuart Gilfillan and isotope geosciences Professor Finlay Stuart to conduct a conceptual study of the source abundance of helium, within the company’s Virginia production right area, which covers 187 000 ha.

Renergen has a valid licence over the area until 2042 and holds 100% of the economic interest in the production right.

With the benefit of this recently completed report, the company requested its reserves and resources accreditation agency Sproule (formerly known as MHA Petroleum Consultants) to review the report and use it, if possible, to estimate helium prospective resources under the Society of Petroleum Engineers’ Petroleum Resources Management (PRMS) standards.

Sproule recently provided its ‘Evaluation of Certain Helium Prospective Resources on the Tetra4 Virginia Gas Project, Free State, South Africa as of July 1, 2020’ report, wherein it found that following PRMS conventions, the 1U volume of prospective resources represents the volume with a 90% chance of being recovered or exceeded, the P90 confidence level.

Similarly, the 2U volume corresponds to the median recovery, the P50 case. And the 3U volume is the category for the largest 10% of the prospective resources, the P10 case.

The 1U volume of prospective resources comprises around 32.5 bcf of recoverable helium, 2U comprises about 106.2 bcf and 3U has 344 bcf.

Spoule also evaluated the volumes of helium available for prospective resources in the Virginia gas development project by use of a probabilistic methodology to account for the early stage exploration phase and the wide range of uncertainty in many variables.

Technically recoverable helium resources were calculated as the product of the range of volumes of helium generated as discussed in the Edinburgh report, migration/entrapment factors to describe captured helium yet remaining in the project and recovery factors which represents the fraction of trapped helium which can be recovered using current technology with no consideration of price, and resulted in the 1U, 2U, and 3U prospective resources (the P90, P50, and P10 volumes of technically recoverable helium resources) as mentioned above.

Edited by: Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online