The ground under southwestern Saskatchewan continues to be a hotbed of helium for one company.

North American Helium opened its seventh facility in the fall, all located in the southwest, this one near Ponteix at their Cadillac field.

It took the Calgary-based company about one year from discovery to being online in September 2023.

Brad Borggard, the chief financial officer with North American Helium, said the site will produce about 22 million cubic feet per year bringing their company's annual total to 155 million cubic feet.

"We're supplying about five per cent of North America's helium demand," he said. "North America, this isn't perfect math, but it's roughly half of the world's demand maybe just under. To give you a sense as to five per cent, we're maybe half of that in terms of satisfying the global demand."

The wells North American Helium has dug across the southwest are on average two and a half kilometres deep, about one kilometre deeper than the majority of oil wells in the region. Modern technology and experience have allowed the 11-year-old company to reach that depth in about two weeks of drilling. 

"This is sort of like exploring for oil and gas in other mature basins back, 50, 60, and 70 years ago," he said. "There hasn't been a lot of wells drilled to that depth. As a company we've now drilled over 80 wells to that sort of depth and in total there's only been about 100 wells in that part of the world that have been drilled to that depth."

Helium is created by the natural radioactive decay of uranium and thorium. The two elements are older than earth itself but overtime leisurely break down.

"Uranium rocks that are sort of closer to the surface in the northern part of the province, they're deeper [in the southwest]," he said. "Once the helium gets released from the uranium, it migrates towards the surface but if it gets caught and trapped, then we have the ability to try and find it."

Owning the mineral rights to over nine million acres of land, the vast majority of which is in the southwest, the company has their sights set on to continuing to grow the industry locally. 

"The vast majority of our activity is still in southwest Saskatchewan, and we do plan to bring more plants on in 2024," he said. "I don't think we've said publicly how many, but I would say probably at least a couple more."

The chemical element is often linked to balloons, but the leading usages of the product are semiconductor chips and MRIs. Borggard said with space exploration growing, so too is their helium demand.