Inauguration of first Helium Purification & Liquefaction Plant of the Southern Hemisphere at Darwin, Australia

The first Helium purification and liquefaction plant of the Southern Hemisphere is opened in Darwin Australia on March 3rd 2010 in presence of (from left to right):
Steve Penn (Linde Gas, Head of Mechant & Packaged Gases), Paul Henderson (Chief Minister of the Northern Territories), Martin Ferguson (Minister for Resources and Energy), Ian Hewson (Linde BOC Site Manager), Colin Isaac (Linde BOC, Managing Director)
The helium plant was designed and supplied by Linde Kryotechnik AG of Switzerland, a subsidiary of Linde Engineering, and is expected to produce 941 tpy of high purity liquid helium. This is enough helium to supply all of Australia’s needs, with additional capacity available for export to other world markets. The source of the raw helium gas is a waste gas stream from Darwin LNG Pty Ltd. The raw helium is piped to the new BOC helium plant, built adjacent to Darwin LNG’s complex, where it is purified and liquefied. Liquid helium is then loaded into specially designed cryogenic containers and transported by truck within Australia and by ship to overseas markets.

The helium purification and liquefaction process is ‘clean’ involving inert gases. As the waste stream from the neighbouring LNG plant is taken there is no net increase in greenhouse gas emissions except for the energy used. The plant is also one of the safest in the world due to significant investment in systems, processes and people.
Sources of helium are relatively rare. This plant is one of only 15 helium plants world wide. Australia’s helium requirements were previously met by importing product from overseas, typically from the US and the Middle East. Darwin will now provide critical helium gases across Australia and Asia Pacific.
Helium purification system processes 20’730 Nm3/h of feed gas to extract the 3mol% of helium from 93.6mol% nitrogen, 3.2% methane and 0.1 mol% hydrogen.
The final helium product quality reaches 99.999%.

Specification:

  • two cryogenic separation stages and parallel nitrogen adsorber beds to separate the nitrogen as well as a Catox unit with dryer beds to separate the hydrogen.
  • the system produces enough liquid nitrogen to cover the needs of the complete plant.
  • the helium liquefier containes three gas bearing turbines, which guarantee maximum process efficiency with a liquefaction capacity of 860 l/h
  • two trailer-filling stations and one container-conditioning station.