Encyclopedia of Petroleum Geoscience

Living Edition
| Editors: Rasoul Sorkhabi


Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-02330-4_291-1


Helium (He) is a colorless, odorless, monatomic, chemically inert gas; it is the second most abundant element in the universe and yet scarce here on Earth. Petroleum basins provide an important habitat for helium.


Helium was first observed in 1868 during a solar eclipse as a spectral line in the yellow part of the spectrum of the Sun. The element was formally discovered in 1895 and accordingly named for the Greek god of the Sun “Helios.” In 1903, significant concentrations of helium and nitrogen were measured in what should have been a petroleum discovery in Dexter, Kansas, USA (Cady and McFarland 1907). Following this, serendipitous discoveries of helium continued to be made in the Mid-West USA as companies searched for petroleum. As a consequence, the USA dominated the helium market until recently. Today there are three other major helium-producing regions, all of which have come online since 2000: Algeria, Qatar, and Russia.

There are two naturally occurring...

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Earth SciencesDurham UniversityDurhamUK
  2. 2.Department of Earth SciencesUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK