Could Helium Lift Rural Arizona Economy? Locals Want Answers On Fracking

"NAHATA DZIIL — On red-dirt pastureland on the southern edge of the Navajo Nation, El Pahi stands beside what looks like a child’s science experiment, but on a larger scale.

Six pill-shaped light-blue tanks are arranged beside what resembles a huge air-conditioner window unit and a silver cylindrical tank. A constant, high-pitched hum pierces the air as the wind blows across the range.

The contraption is a transfer station for a helium mining operation, one of a growing number in the remote region. The non-toxic gas exists in some of the highest concentrations in North America, and possibly the world, in pockets of the Navajo Nation and northeastern Arizona.

Helium is the universe’s second-most abundant element, but it’s in short supply on Earth, where imbalances in the market repeatedly cause global shortages. The non-combustible gas has historically been extracted as a byproduct of oil and natural gas, but private drilling companies are increasingly becoming interested in mining it on its own."

Erin Stone reports for the Arizona Republic May 16, 2021.

Source: Arizona Republic, 05/26/2021