New sources and expansions to helium capacity and production are planned in Big Piney, Wyo. in the U.S. and in two natural gas fields in the Middle East and Africa during the next year, according to Garvey.
"These sources should be sufficient to meet worldwide demand for the next five years, given modest growth in demand and continued global economic recovery," Garvey wrote in a recent report. "There should be adequate future sources of helium from natural gas projects, even in the US. However, consensus is that they will provide helium at much higher prices than users are accustomed to paying."
HGST has not disclosed how many helium-filled drives it plans to produce per years, however, it did say the hermetically sealed drives will be a whole new "platform," meaning there will be numerous products being developed.
In the fourth quarter of this year, Western Digital shipped 71 million drives. Using a far-smaller number -- taking into consideration the helium-filled drives are a new product -- Garvey performed some initial calculations based on 500,000 drive shipments per year. Her conclusion was that consumption level is less than 1 million cubit feet per year, "a minor blip when you consider we produce 6.2 [billion cubic feet per year.]"
Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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