Pulsar Helium, a burgeoning company in the helium exploration and production industry, is making significant strides with its ambitious Topaz Project in northern Minnesota. Despite not being a well-known name in the broader energy sector, Pulsar Helium's innovative approach and strategic initiatives are positioning it as a key player in the helium market. This blog post explores the significance of Pulsar Helium's efforts, the unique aspects of the Topaz Project, and its leader, Thomas Abraham-James.

The Importance of Helium

Helium, often associated with balloons and party decorations, plays a crucial role in various industries. Its applications range from medical technologies, such as MRI machines, to scientific research, including particle accelerators and space exploration. As a noble gas, helium is chemically inert, making it invaluable for processes that require stable and non-reactive environments.

Helium has many industrial applications, notably providing the unique cooling medium for superconducting magnets in medical MRI scanners and high-energy beam lines. In 2013, the global supply chain failed to meet demand, causing significant concern during the "Liquid Helium Crisis." The 2017 closure of Qatar's borders, a major helium supplier, further disrupted the helium supply and accentuated the urgent need to diversify sources of helium.

The Topaz Project: An Overview

Located near Babbitt in northern Minnesota (between Duluth and the Canadian Border on the map to the left), the Topaz Project is one of Pulsar Helium's flagship initiatives. The project focuses on exploring and developing helium resources in a region known for its geological richness. Northern Minnesota, with its unique rock formations and historical mining activities, offers a promising landscape for helium extraction.

Historical Context: Minnesota's Iron Range

Northern Minnesota is no stranger to resource extraction. The Iron Range, a group of iron ore mining districts in northern Minnesota, has a storied history of boom and bust cycles. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Iron Range was a significant source of iron ore, fueling the industrial growth of the United States.

The Boom and Bust Cycle

The Iron Range experienced a series of booms and busts as demand for iron ore fluctuated. The early 20th century saw immense growth, with iron ore from Minnesota playing a crucial role in the United States' industrialization. However, this boom was followed by periods of decline, exacerbated by economic downturns and the depletion of easily accessible ore deposits.

Iron for World War II

Minnesota's iron ore was of paramount importance during World War II. The state's mines supplied a significant portion of the iron needed for the war effort, contributing to the production of weapons, vehicles, and other military equipment. This period marked one of the peaks in the Iron Range's production history, demonstrating the strategic importance of Minnesota's mineral resources.

Decline and Taconite Processing

Post-World War II, the Iron Range faced a decline as high-grade iron ore became scarce. The region's mining industry struggled until the development and refinement of taconite processing. Taconite, a lower-grade iron ore, was abundant in Minnesota. Through advanced processing techniques, it became a viable resource, revitalizing the Iron Range and sustaining its mining industry.

Helium and the Accidental Discovery in 2011

In 2011, a mining company accidentally discovered a significant helium deposit near Babbitt, thrusting Minnesota's Iron Range into a new and complicated corner of the gas industry. This discovery was particularly notable because helium found in bedrock primarily originates from the radioactive decay of elements such as uranium and thorium. These elements, present in trace amounts within the Earth's crust, undergo a slow decay process, producing alpha particles. These alpha particles are helium nuclei. Over millions of years, these helium nuclei accumulate and become trapped in natural gas reserves and porous rock formations.

Pulsar Helium of Canada licensed the site for exploration in 2021, and after eye-popping test results, now plans the state’s first commercial helium operation. The February 2022 tests showed helium concentrations of 13.8% with no meaningful methane contamination. This find is uniquely potent and clean, garnering significant attention in the gas industry and publications like Popular Mechanics. According to Joe Peterson, assistant field manager with the helium division of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in Amarillo, Texas, this concentration is twice as potent as some of the best wells in America.

Recent Developments and Resource Estimates

Pulsar Helium has provided several updates on the size and potential of the helium reserve at their Topaz Project in northern Minnesota. The recent drilling of the Jetstream #1 appraisal well has revealed promising results, with helium concentrations peaking at 14.5% and averaging around 9.9% across multiple samples. This makes it one of the highest concentration helium discoveries in North America.

The natural flow tests conducted have shown a maximum rate of 821 thousand cubic feet per day (Mcf/d), indicating strong production potential. The comprehensive testing and data acquisition efforts, including seismic surveys and downhole logging, are being used to update resource estimates and further assess the reserve's size and production capacity.

The overall approach to the Topaz Project emphasizes high-tech operations within a relatively small, warehouse-sized facility, rather than a large-scale mining operation. This setup will be equipped with advanced technology for efficient helium extraction and processing, reflecting the unique requirements of helium production compared to traditional mining.

Further updates on the reserve size and production estimates are expected as Pulsar continues their detailed analysis and testing, positioning the Topaz Project to significantly contribute to the helium supply chain amid ongoing global supply concerns.

Exploration and Extraction at the Topaz Project

The Topaz Project employs advanced geological survey techniques to identify helium-rich areas. Using state-of-the-art drilling and extraction technologies, Pulsar Helium ensures minimal environmental impact while maximizing resource recovery. The project's strategic location also benefits from existing infrastructure, facilitating efficient transportation and logistics.

Thomas Abraham-James

At the helm of Pulsar Helium is Thomas Abraham-James, a seasoned professional with extensive experience in the mining and resource exploration sectors. His vision and leadership have been instrumental in shaping the company's strategic direction and operational success.

Background and Experience

Thomas Abraham-James was born in England in 1982. As the son of a military father, he quickly became accustomed to travel. In 1987, his family emigrated to Australia, where he grew up and received his formal education. Driven by a desire for exploration, he pursued a career in geology, earning a scholarship to South Africa for his final year and graduating with an honors degree.

Abraham-James began his career with Rio Tinto at the Argyle Diamond Mine as an underground geologist. However, his thirst for exploration soon led him to leave the large multinational company and embark on a career in junior exploration. Within a few years, he found himself traveling to Namibia, Colombia, Greenland, Tanzania, and elsewhere, exploring for new mineral deposits.

Abraham-James transitioned to the world junior miners, co-founding several businesses. These include Helium One Global Ltd, the world’s first dedicated helium exploration company, Longland Resources Ltd, focused on nickel, copper, and palladium exploration in Greenland, and now Pulsar Helium Inc., which boasts the Topaz helium project in the USA, one of the highest known helium occurrences having been drilled and flowed at 10.5% helium.

Thomas Abraham-James left Helium One Global Ltd. to pursue new opportunities and continue his passion for exploration and innovation in the resource extraction industry. His entrepreneurial spirit and desire for new challenges led him to co-found Pulsar Helium Inc. His experience and expertise in the field of helium exploration positioned him well to lead Pulsar Helium and embark on the ambitious Topaz Project in northern Minnesota. By moving on from Helium One Global, Abraham-James was able to apply his knowledge and skills to new ventures, continuing his legacy of advancing the helium industry and contributing to the discovery and development of valuable resources.

Economic and Societal Impact

The Topaz Project is poised to bring significant economic benefits to northern Minnesota. However, unlike the large-scale taconite mines, helium extraction will likely require a much smaller workforce. The production facility is expected to be more like a warehouse-sized operation filled with high technology. A helium operation runs only when helium is needed, contrasting with the continuous extraction at taconite mines. This difference means that while the economic impact will be significant, it will primarily come from high-tech operations and not necessarily from widespread job creation【40†source】【41†source】【42†source】.

Legal and Regulatory Challenges

The discovery of helium in Minnesota has also prompted legal and regulatory challenges. A law passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Tim Walz places a moratorium on the extraction of helium and other gases until a regulatory framework and tax structure is in place. This framework is essential to ensure that the benefits of helium extraction are fairly distributed and that the process is conducted responsibly. The law allows the Legislature to issue a temporary permit if the process takes too long and places an 18.75% royalty on the sale price of any helium produced.


Pulsar Helium's Topaz Project in northern Minnesota represents a significant milestone in the quest for sustainable and efficient helium production. Despite being a relatively new entrant in the energy sector, Pulsar Helium's innovative approach and strategic vision are setting new standards. With Thomas Abraham-James at the helm, the company's future looks promising as it continues to explore and develop vital helium resources.

Through the Topaz Project, Pulsar Helium not only addresses the growing demand for helium but also showcases the potential for responsible and innovative resource extraction. The future of helium looks promising, and with initiatives like Topaz, Pulsar Helium is leading the charge toward a brighter, more sustainable future. The project’s impact on the Iron Range is yet to be fully realized, but it holds the promise of revitalizing the region's rich history of resource extraction with a modern, high-tech twist.

Full Disclosure: at the time of this writing, I owned shares of Pulsar Helium.