Text: S.2374 — 112th Congress (2011-2012)All Bill Information (Except Text)

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Introduced in Senate (04/26/2012)


112th CONGRESS
2d Session
S. 2374

To amend the Helium Act to ensure the expedient and responsible draw-down of the Federal Helium Reserve in a manner that protects the interests of private industry, the scientific, medical, and industrial communities, commercial users, and Federal agencies, and for other purposes.


IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES
April 26, 2012

Mr. Bingaman (for himself, Mr. Barrasso, Mr. Wyden, and Mr. Enzi) introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources


A BILL

To amend the Helium Act to ensure the expedient and responsible draw-down of the Federal Helium Reserve in a manner that protects the interests of private industry, the scientific, medical, and industrial communities, commercial users, and Federal agencies, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. Short title.

This Act may be cited as the “Helium Stewardship Act of 2012”.

SEC. 2. Definitions.

Section 2 of the Helium Act (50 U.S.C. 167) is amended—

(1) in paragraph (1), by striking the semicolon at the end and inserting a period;

(2) in paragraph (2), by striking “; and” and inserting a period; and

(3) by adding at the end the following:

“(4) FEDERAL HELIUM RESERVE.—

“(A) IN GENERAL.—The term ‘Federal Helium Reserve’ means helium reserves owned by the United States.

“(B) INCLUSIONS.—The term ‘Federal Helium Reserve’ includes—

“(i) the Cliffside Field helium storage reservoir;

“(ii) the federally owned helium pipeline system; and

“(iii) all associated infrastructure owned, leased, or managed under contract by the Secretary for storage, transportation, withdrawal, purification, or management of helium.

“(5) LOW-BTU GAS.—The term ‘low-Btu gas’ means a fuel gas with a heating value of less than 250 Btu per standard cubic foot measured as the higher heating value resulting from the inclusion of noncombustible gases, including nitrogen, helium, argon, and carbon dioxide.”.

SEC. 3. Sale of crude helium.

Section 6 of the Helium Act (50 U.S.C. 167d) is amended to read as follows:

“SEC. 6. Sale of crude helium.

“(a) Phase A: business as usual.—

“(1) IN GENERAL.—Subject to paragraph (2), the Secretary may offer for sale crude helium for Federal, medical, scientific, and commercial uses in such quantities, at such times, and under such conditions as the Secretary, in consultation with the helium industry, determines necessary to carry out this subsection with minimum market disruption.

“(2) MINIMUM QUANTITY.—The Secretary shall offer for sale during each fiscal year under paragraph (1) a quantity of crude helium that is not less than the quantity of crude helium offered for sale by the Secretary during fiscal year 2012.

“(3) PURCHASE BY FEDERAL AGENCIES.—Federal agencies, and extramural holders of 1 or more Federal research grants, may purchase refined helium under this subsection for Federal, medical, and scientific uses from persons who have entered into enforceable contracts to purchase an equivalent quantity of crude helium from the Secretary.

“(4) DURATION.—This subsection applies during the period—

“(A) beginning on the date of enactment of the Helium Stewardship Act of 2012; and

“(B) ending on the date on which all amounts required to be repaid to the United States under this Act as of October 1, 1995, are repaid in full.

“(b) Phase B: Maximizing total recovery of helium.—

“(1) IN GENERAL.—The Secretary may offer for sale crude helium for Federal, medical, scientific, and commercial uses in such quantities, at such times, and under such conditions as the Secretary, in consultation with the helium industry, determines necessary—

“(A) to maximize total recovery of helium from the Federal Helium Reserve over the long term;

“(B) to manage crude helium sales according to the ability of the Secretary to extract and produce helium from the Federal Helium Reserve;

“(C) to respond to helium market supply and demand;

“(D) to give priority to meeting the helium demand of Federal users in event of any disruption to the Federal Helium Reserve; and

“(E) to carry out this subsection.

“(2) PURCHASE BY FEDERAL AGENCIES.—Federal agencies, and extramural holders of 1 or more Federal research grants, may purchase refined helium under this subsection for Federal, medical, and scientific uses from persons who have entered into enforceable contracts to purchase an equivalent quantity of crude helium from the Secretary.

“(3) DURATION.—This subsection applies during the period—

“(A) beginning on the day after the date described in subsection (a)(4)(B); and

“(B) ending on the date on which the volume of recoverable crude helium at the Federal Helium Reserve (other than privately owned quantities of crude helium stored temporarily at the Federal Helium Reserve under section 5 and this section) is 3,000,000,000 standard cubic feet.

“(c) Phase C: Access for Federal users.—

“(1) IN GENERAL.—The Secretary may offer for sale crude helium for Federal uses (including medical and scientific uses) in such quantities, at such times, and under such conditions as the Secretary determines necessary to carry out this subsection.

“(2) PURCHASE BY FEDERAL AGENCIES.—Federal agencies, and extramural holders of 1 or more Federal research grants, may purchase refined helium under this subsection for Federal uses (including medical and scientific uses) from persons who have entered into enforceable contracts to purchase an equivalent quantity of crude helium from the Secretary.

“(3) EFFECTIVE DATE.—This subsection applies beginning on the day after the date described in subsection (b)(3)(B).

“(d) Prices and determinations.—

“(1) IN GENERAL.—Sales of crude helium by the Secretary shall be at prices established by the Secretary that approximate the crude helium price in the private market as of the date of the offer for sale.

“(2) DETERMINATION OF SALE PRICE.—The Secretary may make a determination of the prices described in paragraph (1) using—

“(A) a confidential survey of qualifying domestic helium sourcing transactions to which any holder of a contract with the Secretary for the acceptance, storage, and redelivery of crude helium in the Cliffside Field helium storage reservoir is a party;

“(B) current market crude helium prices inferred from any amount received by the Secretary from the sale or disposition of helium on Federal land under subsection (f); and

“(C) in consultation with the helium industry, the volume-weighted average cost among helium refiners, producers, and liquefiers, in dollars per thousand cubic feet, of converting gaseous crude helium into bulk liquid helium.

“(3) AUTHORITY OF SECRETARY.—The Secretary shall require all persons or entities that are parties to a contract with the Secretary for the acceptance, storage, and redelivery of crude helium to disclose, on a strictly confidential basis in dollars per thousand cubic feet, the weighted average price of all crude helium and bulk liquid helium purchased or processed by the persons in all qualifying domestic helium sourcing transactions during the fiscal year.

“(4) QUALIFYING DOMESTIC HELIUM SOURCING TRANSACTIONS.—

“(A) IN GENERAL.—In establishing the prices described in paragraph (1), the Secretary shall consider subparagraphs (B) and (C) to ensure a reasonable number of transactions.

“(B) INCLUSIONS.—For the purposes of this subsection, qualifying domestic helium sourcing transactions include any new agreement in the United States for the purchase of at least 20,000,000 standard cubic feet of crude helium or liquid helium in the fiscal year in which the Secretary collects the data.

“(C) EXCLUSIONS.—For the purposes of this subsection, qualifying domestic helium sourcing transactions do not include—

“(i) purchases of crude helium from the Secretary; or

“(ii) transactions at prices indexed to the posted crude helium price of the Secretary.

“(5) USE OF INFORMATION.—The Secretary may use the information gathered under this subsection to approximate the current fair market price for crude helium to ensure recovery of fair value for the taxpayers of the United States from sales of crude helium.

“(6) PROTECTION OF CONFIDENTIALITY.—The Secretary shall adopt such administrative policies and procedures that the Secretary considers necessary and reasonable to ensure robust protection of the confidentiality of data submitted by private persons.

“(e) Helium Production Fund.—

“(1) IN GENERAL.—All amounts received under this Act, including amounts from the sale of crude helium, shall be credited to the Helium Production Fund, which shall be available without fiscal year limitation for purposes considered necessary by the Secretary to carry out this subsection.

“(2) CAPITAL INVESTMENTS AND MAINTENANCE.—The Secretary may use funds credited to the Helium Production Fund to fund capital investments in upgrades and maintenance at the Federal Helium Reserve, including—

“(A) well head maintenance at the Cliffside Field helium storage reservoir;

“(B) capital investments in maintenance and upgrades of facilities that pressurize the Cliffside Field helium storage reservoir;

“(C) capital investments in maintenance and upgrades of equipment related to the storage, withdrawal, transportation, purification, and sale of crude helium at the Cliffside Field helium storage reservoir; and

“(D) any other scheduled or unscheduled maintenance of the Cliffside Field helium storage reservoir and helium pipeline.

“(3) EXCESS FUNDS.—Any amounts in the Fund described in paragraph (1) that exceed the amounts that the Secretary determines to be necessary to carry out paragraph (1) and any contracts negotiated under this Act shall be paid to the Treasury and credited against the amounts required to be repaid to the Treasury under subsection (a).

“(f) Extraction of helium from deposits on Federal land.—All amounts received by the Secretary from the sale or disposition of helium on Federal land shall be paid to the Treasury and credited against the amounts required to be repaid to the Treasury under subsection (a).”.

SEC. 4. Helium resource assessment, conservation research, and helium-3 separation.

The Helium Act is amended by striking section 15 (50 U.S.C. 167m) and inserting the following:

“SEC. 15. Helium gas resource assessment.

“Not later than 2 years after the date of enactment of the Helium Stewardship Act of 2012, the Secretary, acting through the Director of the United States Geological Survey, shall—

“(1) in coordination with appropriate heads of State geological surveys—

“(A) complete a national helium gas assessment that identifies and quantifies the quantity of helium, including the isotope helium-3, in each reservoir, including assessments of the constituent gases found in each helium resource, such as carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and natural gas; and

“(B) make available the modern seismic and geophysical log data for characterization of the Bush Dome Reservoir;

“(2) in coordination with appropriate international agencies and the global geology community, complete a global helium gas assessment that identifies and quantifies the quantity of the helium, including the isotope helium-3, in each reservoir;

“(3) in coordination with the Secretary of Energy, acting through the Administrator of the Energy Information Administration, complete—

“(A) an assessment of trends in global demand for helium, including the isotope helium-3;

“(B) a 10-year forecast of domestic demand for helium across all sectors, including scientific and medical research, manufacturing, space technologies, cryogenics, and national defense; and

“(C) an inventory of medical, scientific, industrial, commercial, and other uses of helium in the United States, including Federal and commercial helium uses, that identifies the nature of the helium use, the amounts required, the technical and commercial viability of helium recapture and recycling in that use, and the availability of material substitutes wherever possible; and

“(4) submit to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources of the Senate and the Committee on Natural Resources of the House of Representatives a report describing the results of the assessments required under this paragraph.

“SEC. 16. Low-Btu gas separation and helium conservation research and development.

“(a) Authorization.—The Secretary of Energy shall support programs of research, development, commercial application, and conservation (including the programs described in subsection (b))—

“(1) to expand the domestic production of low-Btu gas and helium resources;

“(2) to separate and capture helium from natural gas streams at the wellhead; and

“(3) to reduce the venting of helium and helium-bearing low-Btu gas during natural gas exploration and production.

“(b) Programs.—

“(1) MEMBRANE TECHNOLOGY RESEARCH.—The Secretary of Energy, in consultation with other appropriate agencies, shall support a civilian research program to develop advanced membrane technology that is used in the separation of low-Btu gases, including technologies that remove helium and other constituent gases that lower the Btu content of natural gas.

“(2) HELIUM SEPARATION TECHNOLOGY.—The Secretary of Energy shall support a research program to develop technologies for separating, gathering, and processing helium in low concentrations that occur naturally in geological reservoirs or formations, including—

“(A) low-Btu gas production streams; and

“(B) technologies that minimize the atmospheric venting of helium gas during natural gas production.

“(3) INDUSTRIAL HELIUM PROGRAM.—The Secretary of Energy, working through the Industrial Technologies Program of the Department of Energy, shall carry out a research program—

“(A) to develop low-cost technologies and technology systems for recycling, reprocessing, and reusing helium; and

“(B) to develop industrial gathering technologies to capture helium from other chemical processing, including ammonia processing.

“SEC. 17. Helium-3 separation.

“(a) Interagency cooperation.—The Secretary shall cooperate with the Secretary of Energy, or a designee, on any assessment or research relating to the extraction and refining of the isotope helium-3 from crude helium at the Federal Helium Reserve or along the helium pipeline system, including—

“(1) gas analysis;

“(2) infrastructure studies; and

“(3) cooperation with private helium refiners.

“(b) Feasibility study.—The Secretary, in consultation with the Secretary of Energy, or a designee, may carry out a study to assess the feasibility of establishing a facility to separate the isotope helium-3 from crude helium at—

“(1) the Federal Helium Reserve; or

“(2) an existing helium separation or purification facility connected to the helium pipeline system.

“(c) Report.—Not later than 1 year after the date of enactment of the Helium Stewardship Act of 2012, the Secretary shall submit to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources of the Senate and the Committee on Natural Resources of the House of Representatives a report that contains a description of the results of the assessments conducted under this section.”.

SEC. 5. Miscellaneous.

Section 102 of the Soda Ash Royalty Reduction Act of 2006 (30 U.S.C. 262 note; Public Law 109–338) is amended by striking “5-year” and inserting “7-year”.