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Ras Laffan Helium 1 is a joint venture owned by RL, RL (II) and Qatargas, and operated by Qatargas. The plant was announced in 2003 and came on stream two years later. Ras Laffan Helium 2, also operated by Qatargas, is a joint venture owned by RL (3) and Qatargas. Its plant - the world's largest - began production in the third quarter of 2013.
Liquid helium from the Ras Laffan Helium 1 plant fulfils sales contracts with the Linde Group (previously known as BOC Group) and Air Liquide. The first liquid helium was produced in August 2005.
In 2008, when the Ras Laffan Helium 1 plant reached its designed production capacity of 700 million standard cubic feet per year (or more than 9 tonnes per day), 465 containers were produced. Production currently stands at more than 500 containers a year.
The customers for liquid helium from the Ras Laffan Helium 2 plant will be Air Liquide (50%), Linde Gases (30%) and Iwatani Corporation (20%). The annual capacity of the new plant is 1.3 billion standard cubic feet.
Although the North Field contains only a trace amount of helium, estimated at 0.04%, the vast size of the reservoir means that the helium available is expected to be enough to meet world demand for the next 30 years. And with both helium plants operating at full capacity, Qatargas will supply approximately 25% of the world's total helium production.