Federal Helium Reserve, Texas

Since the 1920s, Amarillo has been the hub for helium production in the USA, a government monopoly due primarily to the strategic use of helium for airships used for surveillance, and other defense technologies. The region around Amarillo, and extending into southern Kansas, once produced 95% of the world's recoverable helium, at plants that extracted it from natural gas. An underground pipeline, 425 miles long, built in 1962, sent helium from refineries to this facility, which sits on top of a geologic structure called the Bush Dome, where wells drilled into the dome hold the helium in storage. From 1963 to 1973, more than 40 billion cubic feet of crude helium flowed through this eight-inch pipeline, filling up the reservoir. With the passing of the Helium Privatization Act of 1996, the helium in the reserve is being sold off in lots, though much of it remains in storage here, now owned by private companies that pay storage fees. The pipeline is now used in reverse, to send helium from the reserve to plants along the pipeline that refine it and distribute it internationally.