Exell Helium Plant, Texas

The Exell Helium Plant is the last remaining government helium plant, in an area that in the 1960's produced 95% of the World's recoverable helium. Exell began production in 1943, producing helium for air ships during World War Two. It was operated by the Federal Bureau of Mines, and was located here to refine the gas that occurs in this region in association with the rich natural gas and oil fields of the Texas Panhandle. During the war, the Exell Plant employed over 1,000 people, and some of the helium was used in the prodution 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 1980's, and in 1994 it employed 100 people. At that time, 98% of the helium it produced was used by the Federal government. In 1996, as a result of the Helium Privatization Act being signed into law, the federal government was effectively forced out of the helium business. In 1998, operations ceased at the plant. By 2006, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) had completed closure and remediation operations (the Bureau of Mines having been abolished in 1996), and the site was transferred to the General Services Administration (GSA), for final disposal at auction.The National Helium Reserve, roughly 32 billion cubic feet of helium gas stored in a cluster of mines, pipes and vats that extends underground for over 200 miles from Amarillo into Kansas, is being gradually sold off as well, until 2019 - 2020, when the remaining 3 billion cubic feet of gas will be set aside for federal users.