Exell Helium Plant, Texas

The Exell Helium Plant, run by the federal government, was likely the largest single source of helium in the world before it closed in 1998, after the Helium Privatization Act was passed in 1996. In the 1960s, the region around Amarillo, and extending into southern Kansas, produced 95% of the world's recoverable helium. Exell began production in 1943, producing helium for air ships during World War II. It was operated by the Federal Bureau of Mines. During the war, the Exell Plant employed over 1,000 people, and some of the helium was used in the production of the first atomic bombs. After the war, the other Bureau helium plants were closed, but Exell continued to produce the gas for use in rocket propulsion systems, including ICBMs. The plant was modernized and expanded through the 1980s, and in 1994 it employed 100 people. At that time, 98% of the helium it produced was used by the Federal Government.