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

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Introduced in Senate (04/26/2012)


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[Congressional Bills 112th Congress]
[From the U.S. Government Printing Office]
[S. 2374 Introduced in Senate (IS)]

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''.
                                 <all>