Renergen produces First Liquid Helium at Virginia Plant in South Africa

South Africa now joins eight other countries globally to produce liquid helium.

By Chriselle Moraes on
4th February 2023

Renergen, a producer of natural gas and liquid helium, has announced the first production of liquid helium at its Virginia gas plant located in the Free State province of South Africa.

Helium is an essential element required in many industries. It is typically recovered as a by-product of natural gas.

Renergen's Virginia gas plant is reported to be South Africa’s first commercial-scale liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant. With the milestone of first production of helium at the plant, South Africa is the world's newest producer of liquid helium and joins eight countries globally to produce the highly sought-after liquid helium.

Other countries currently producing liquid helium include the United States, Qatar, Algeria, Russia, Australia, Poland, China and Canada.

Construction of Renergen's Virginia gas plant started in 2019, and the plant started producing LNG for commercial use in October 2022.

 In October 2021 Renergen announced that they had discovered a high concentration of helium on the Virginia gas plant site, with a reserve estimated to be as large as 9.75 billion cubic metres.

The liquid helium module at the Virginia plant has a production capacity of 350 kilogrammes per day. There are plans for it to be expanded from 2026 with the company reported to be allocating between R12 billion and R15 billion for the expansion project.

Applications of helium include:

  • Balloons: The most common use for helium gas is for decorative balloons. However, this has since stretched to helium for weather balloons and airships. 
  • Medical: Helium gas can be used to treat respiratory conditions such as asthma and emphysema. It is also used in MRI scanners and NMR spectrometers.
  • Car/Vehicles: As helium is a very unreactive element, it is used to detect leaks in car air-conditioning systems. It is also used to inflate airbags as helium can diffuse quicker than most unreactive gases.
  • Barcode Scanners: Helium is used for scanning barcodes at supermarket checkouts using helium-neon gas lasers.   
  • Deep-Sea Diving / Underwater Breathing: An artificial atmosphere is created using 20% oxygen and 80% helium to keep divers and others who work in pressurised conditions safe. 

With South Africa consuming approximately 200 kilogrammes of helium per day, according to Renergen, the liquid helium produced from the Virginia plant will be predominantly used for exports to meet global demand, with countries such as the U.S. consuming roughly 35,000 kilogrammes of helium per day, comparatively.

In a press statement, Stefano Marani, CEO of Renergen, stated that “Having the helium plant in operation and producing liquid helium is a truly spectacular achievement,” adding that, “All components of the Phase 1 plant are now in operation, and South Africa joins the ranks of only eight countries in the world to produce this rare and valuable liquid.”

Top Photo: Helium Block at Virginia Gas Plant (

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