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Are you experiencing helium supply issues and rising costs?

30 October 2018
  • Mark Badger
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Helium supply issues are nothing new.  At Restek we have been discussing this off and on for years now.  The following articles and information are just a small selection of what is available on our website and our ChromaBLOGraphy, and are there to help you make informed decisions about alternatives to helium, and reduced helium consumption in your lab.

The History of Shortages

Alternatives to Helium

For years we have been writing and lecturing about using alternatives gases to helium in gas chromatography:

Benefits and Considerations of Converting to Hydrogen Carrier Gas -

Gas Generators

If you choose to move away from helium to hydrogen or nitrogen as a carrier gas, or purge gas, then a gas generator would be a great source for a consistent flow of clean gas.  Gas generators have been used for many years for just this purpose.  Yes they can be a high initial capital expense, but they can pay for themselves in as little as one year when you compare how much you would have been paying for helium in bottles.  The modern gas generators have a series of safety devices built into them so that the concerns over using hydrogen, for example, are diminished to a point that it is no more of a problem than any other gas that is used.

Gas Management in Labs -

Working Safely with Hydrogen as a Carrier Gas -

Restek's Selection of Parker Balston Gas Generator -


I still hear your hesitancy and want to have some convincing evidence about using alternative gases in your applications.  Well luckily for you we have done a lot of work on this, and here are a few examples:


Organochlorine pesticides -


ASTM D2887 -

ASTM D7213 -



Blood Alcohol -

Cannabinoids -

Fragrances -


You may not be able to find an example of your application in our database, but you can model it using Pro-EZGC.  The Pro-EZGC suite allows you to enter your current conditions and then change certain parameters to translate the method.  These parameters include the carrier gas.  So you can model and improve your analysis before you even start performing experiments and method development on the instrument.  The following link will take you to the Pro-EZGC suite and the tutorials to help you:


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Sun, Apr 26, 2020

Yes, I bought a helium gas cylinder at a high price. This post explained the issues in the helium gas supply. It helped me a lot...

Tue, Oct 30, 2018

Thanks for your quick comment to this Blog article James. I had to consult with my colleagues on this one but here is what Chris Rattray gave me: 8260D allows for a higher ratio when using hydrogen carrier gas...but you need to be performing 8260D (which is the first 8260 method to officially address hydrogen carrier) Table 3 4-BROMOFLUOROBENZENE (BFB) SUGGESTED CRITERIA* m/z Intensity (relative abundance) 95 50-200% of mass 174 96 5 to 9% of m/z 95 (5 to 15% when using H2 carrier) 173 <2% of m/z 174 174 50-200% of mass 95 175 5 to 9% of m/z 174 176 95 to 105% of m/z 174 177 5 to 10% of m/z 176 8260D has a guidance for using hydrogen carrier gas Appendix B: Guidance for Using Hydrogen Carrier Gas B1.0 Guidance for Using Hydrogen Carrier Gas B1.1 Hydrogen is an acceptable carrier gas to use for this analysis. However, the following modifications may be needed to make the analysis comparable to helium carrier gas: B1.1.1 It is recommended that the highest purity (99.999% or better) hydrogen gas be used, such as from a generator or from high purity cylinders that will have minimal interferences present (e.g., hydrocarbons and water). Use of stainless steel tubing instead of copper tubing may increase the longevity of gas lines as older copper lines may become brittle over time with the use of hydrogen. MS ion source materials should be designed and approved for use with hydrogen. Contact the manufacturer of the MS to confirm the ion source is compatible with hydrogen. Additionally, the pressure in the source should be reduced when hydrogen is used to prevent chemical ionization or other detrimental reactions from occurring. This may be done by the use of narrower bore columns (0.18 mm ID or smaller), reduction in the flow to the MS, and/or by the use of internal MS vacuum pumps (turbo pumps) with greater volumetric or pumping efficiency. Hydrogen may not be a suitable carrier gas for systems that have internal diffusion pumps. B1.1.2 Use of hydrogen will clean (scrub) the metal surfaces of the analytical system of compounds that have adhered to the surface, generally hydrocarbons, and increase the background presence of these interferences. A bake-out of the system using high flows of hydrogen may decrease these interferences to a level that would not interfere with analysis. It is also recommended that new filters be installed on gas lines (or remove them altogether if gas purity is sufficient) to prevent the scrubbing of impurities from the filters. B1.2 Use of hydrogen as the carrier gas may also reduce the responses of target analytes (i.e., approximately 2 - 5 times) as compared to helium. RF criteria listed in Table 4 were developed using helium carrier gas and are not appropriate for hydrogen carrier gas due to the reduced response of some analytes. If minimum RFs are used in evaluating the calibration, the laboratory should develop their own criteria or use published RFs from the instrument manufacturer. Reactivity of target analytes will vary with instrument conditions. As part of the demonstration of capability (DOC) process, evaluate target analytes for stability under the expected analytical conditions. B1.3 As with any method modification, all QC procedures listed in Sec. 9.0 of this method should be repeated and passed using hydrogen as the carrier gas prior to the analysis of samples. Use of alternate solvents for calibration standards and extracts would also require repeating these QC procedures prior to analysis of samples. B1.4 Hydrogen gas is highly flammable and additional safety controls may be necessary to prevent explosive levels of gas from forming. This may be accomplished by connecting vent lines from the GC inlet and MS rough pump to exhaust systems in the laboratory and leak testing all gas line connections. The flow of hydrogen should also be turned off at the source prior to opening gas lines on the GC and prior to venting the MS (such as when maintenance is performed). The user should consult additional guidelines for the safe use of hydrogen from the instrument manufacturer prior to implementing its use.

Tue, Oct 30, 2018

The only problem we have ran into with hydrogen is for meeting the BFB tune requirements for Volatiles by EPA methods. The m/z 95/96 ratio is difficult to meet as the hydrogen increases the 96 percentage above the 5-9% allowable. DFTPP tuning requirements for Semivolatile are not difficult to meet and so far the testing I have done shows these work well on hydrogen. If we can get EPA to look at the tune requirements for BFB then we would be able to get completely away from helium and it is something that should be a priority for EPA since helium is a natural resource that needs to be conserved.