Test drill site confirms rich helium pocket in Minnesota wilderness

Photo Credit: Pulsar Helium via X (Twitter)

A drilling crew boring some 2,000 feet under the surface of the northern Minnesota wilderness has found what they were looking for. Namely, confirmation of a rich pocket of helium gas first discovered in 2011 by geologists exploring for other mineral deposits.

The findings appear likely to live up to the expectations of the Canadian company carrying out the operation that the area may contain one of the world’s richest pockets of helium. The medical, aerospace, defense and high-tech industries depend on the highly sought after strategic gas.

“This is an outstanding result, I am delighted that helium has been identified in the Jetstream #1 appraisal well,” Pulsar Helium CEO Thomas Abraham-James said in a news release. “It is a big day for helium exploration, confirming the original discovery in the new jurisdiction of Minnesota. I look forward to keeping the market updated with further results as they are received.”

Pulsar discovered helium at a higher rate of concentration than the 10.5 percent sample obtained more than a decade ago. Amounts as low as .3 percent of the increasingly rare gas are considered to be economically viable.

But the Duluth News Tribune notes further drilling will be put on hold until access to the remote site improves in the spring.

The drill site, called the Topez Project, is located 9 miles down the graveled Dunka River Road — riddled with potholes and tire ruts amid an unusually warm winter — as well as Cleveland-Cliffs’ Peter Mitchell Mine and the unincorporated community of Isabella.

The company began drilling earlier this month and had planned to drill another 50 feet down to a depth of 2,250 feet, but abnormally warm temperatures and looming road weight restrictions have forced the company to stop early and dismantle the Wyoming drilling rig, which is usually used for oil and gas drilling.

Crews plan to install a well-testing device on the borehole to take additional samples and conduct more tests when road conditions allow.

Pulsar officials believe the greater region could also contain additional pockets of helium, due to the geologic makeup of the area.

Helium is often a byproduct of the oil and natural gas industry, but the Minnesota find could provide a hydrocarbon-free source of the element when there is otherwise a shortage of the gas. Pulsar has said it wants to install a production well on-site if conditions are right, but Minnesota would likely need new regulations overseeing it.

The discovery of helium gas caught many off-guard, including state regulators. It’s not clear which state agency would be in charge of overseeing helium production, though representatives of the Minnesota Department of Health were on site during drilling operations.