Sep 21, 2021

Transporting Covid-19 vaccine: We can keep it cold with helium says SA producer

It turns out helium is not only good for voice tricks with party balloons – it could also be a useful tool in the fight against Covid-19.

The coronavirus vaccine requires temperature-controlled packaging during transportation.

Helium and domestic natural gas producer Renergen has come up with a solution to this logistical problem.

It’s patenting the “Cryo-Vacc”, stacked aluminium boxes that can transport the vaccine safely for a period of 30 days.

Bruce Whitfield interviews Renergen CEO Stefano Marani about this new use for helium.

[In the Free State] it’s the highest concentration in the world… thanks to an asteroid! The gas is underground; we drill… and we separate it from the methane, making both LNG and liquid helium which then gets used in various industrial applications.
Stefano Marani, CEO – Renergen

The vaccine is -70° and dry ice is only marginally below that… Helium is -269° Celsius, or just three above absolute zero… We turn it into a liquid.
Stefano Marani, CEO – Renergen

In liquid form helium is cheaper to transport. We use the fact that it’s in liquid form to move it all over the world.
Stefano Marani, CEO – Renergen

Moving something like a Covid-19 vaccine around at -70° is tricky because time is against you, Marani says.

What they’re utilising is helium’s ability to store cold energy.

We designed and applied for a patent for this little aluminium case that you could use to transport a minimum of 100 doses.
Stefano Marani, CEO – Renergen

The liquid helium boils as it should because it’s warming up and creates vapour which we use to circulate throughout the box and keep the vaccine at -70° for up to 30 days.
Stefano Marani, CEO – Renergen

We’d only be able to use anything from our plant when it comes online which is third quarter next year.
Stefano Marani, CEO – Renergen