HC Deb 02 June 1931 vol 253 cc3-5

asked the Secretary for Mines when he will be in a position to make a full statement on the results of the experiments which have been carried out in relation to the extraction of oil from coal?


Reports on experimental work in relation to the extraction of oil from coal are published each year in the reports of the Fuel Research Board, and fuller details on various technical aspects of the work are published from time to time in special publications issued by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research.


Is there any indication at the moment that the research work which is being prosecuted will have some sort of productive result; and does the right hon. Gentleman think that these experiments will result in establishing the commercial possibility of obtaining oil from coal?


A very full statement was made some time before the Whitsuntide Recess. Of course, the whole object is to try to reduce these propositions to a commercial basis, and, I imagine, the bulk of the research is being directed to that end.


At what stage of the research process will the right hon. Gentleman be able to say that they have been reduced to a commercial basis?


Clearly, that is a question which I could not answer.


asked the Secretary of Mines when and under what circumstances the State, in the shape of the British Government of the day, first took into consideration the question of the extraction of oil from coal by any form of carbonisation process; in what year negotiations were carried on with any industrial concern willing to experiment; and what State assistance in each year has been given to such experiments since their initiation?


As the answer involves a rather long statement, I will, with the hon. Member's permission circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is. the answer:

The first serious consideration given on Government account to the extraction of oil from coal was in connection with the Royal Commission on Fuel and Engines for the Navy, which sat during 1912–1913 under the Chairmanship of Lord Fisher, and it was largely due to the consideration then given to the question that it was subsequently decided to establish a Government Fuel Research Station. The hon. Member will find an account of this early development in two reports of the Fuel Research Board, covering the years 1918–1919, and 1920–1921.

As regards the second part of the question, many representations have been made from time to time to the Government that they should give direct financial assistance to the commercial development of processes designed to produce oil from coal. There have been the following instances in which such assistance has been given to commercial undertakings:—

  1. (1) In 1922 the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research made a grant of £2,500 to Low Temperature Construction Limited to assist in the development of an experimental retort.
  2. (2) In 1924 the Government instituted arrangements for testing, in approved cases, low temperature carbonisation plants which were considered promising and were of adequate scale, without charging a fee for the test.
  3. (3) In 1927 the Government undertook to guarantee the capital and interest on a loan not exceeding £100,000 for the purpose of carrying out an experiment in low temperature carbonisation on a commercial scale at the Richmond Gas Works belonging to the Gas Light and Coke Company. Reference was made to this experiment in the statement made on the 6th May, on behalf of the Secretary for Mines by my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty.

As regards expenditure at the Government Fuel Research Station, I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given on 22nd May to a question by my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon.