| DOHA/DUBAI, June 13
DOHA/DUBAI, June 13 Qatar, the world's second
largest helium producer, has closed its two helium production
plants because of the economic boycott imposed on it by other
Arab states, industry sources told Reuters on Tuesday.
The helium plants operated by RasGas, a subsidiary of
state-owned Qatar Petroleum, were shut because Saudi
Arabia closed its border with Qatar, blocking overland exports
of the gas, a Qatar Petroleum official told Reuters.
The official declined to be named under briefing rules. Phil
Kornbluth, head of U.S.-based industry consultants Kornbluth
Helium Consulting said his sources had confirmed the closure.
The two plants have a combined annual production capacity of
approximately 2 billion standard cubic feet of liquid helium and
can meet about 25 percent of total world demand for the gas,
according to RasGas' website.
Among its uses, helium is used to cool superconducting
magnets in medical magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners, as
a lifting gas in balloons and airships, as a gas to breathe in
deep-sea diving and to keep satellite instruments cool. It is
derived from natural gas during processing.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain
cut diplomatic and transport ties with Qatar last week, accusing
it of supporting terrorism, a charge which Doha denies.
(Editing by Andrew Torchia, editing by David Evans)