HC Deb 26 November 1951 vol 494 cc863-5
35. Mr. R. Robinson

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether his attention has been called to the recent report published by the American Department of the Interior with regard to the experiment in underground gasification of coal conducted jointly by the Bureau of Mines and the Alabama Power Company at Gorgas, Alabama, of which a copy has been sent to him, in which gas produced by burning coal underground was found suitable for driving turbines and generating steam; what liaison there is between his Department and the American Bureau of Mines on this subject; and how far the results of the experiment conducted in this country confirm the American findings.

Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd

Yes, Sir. We are in close touch with the U.S. Bureau of Mines about underground gasification, and as a result of an invitation from the Bureau and the Alabama Power Company a scientist of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research has been working with the team at Gorgas for the last 2½ years.

Allowing for differences in technique and the nature of the coal seams, the conclusions from the work in this country are in agreement with those in the United States that the gas produced could be used for driving gas turbines and generating steam.

We have, however, not got far enough to decide whether the process would be economic.

36. Mr. Nabarro

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he will state the anticipated duration of the underground gasification of coal experiments being conducted at Bayton, Worcestershire; on what costing basis the contractors employed by his Department are operating; how far periodical examination and interim scrutiny of costs is to be undertaken by his Department; whether the gasification measures to date are deemed successful; and whether he will make a statement.

Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd

It is expected that two coal seams will be ignited at Bayton early in 1952, but I cannot forecast how long this phase of the experiment will last.

It is not customary to disclose the basis of an individual contract place by a Government Department.

While I am not prepared to make a statement at present, I would refer my hon. Friend to the Thomas Hawksley Lecture of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, delivered this month, a copy of which I am sending him, which includes a statement of the experimental work undertaken in this country.

Mr. Nabarro

Would the Minister be prepared in connection with this contract to answer a fundamental point—are the contractors conducting the experiment on a cost plus basis and what degree of control over the cost is being exercised by his Department?

Mr. Lloyd

That is a different Question, but I shall inquire into it.

Mr. S. O. Davies

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that underground gasification of coal has been a great success in the Donetz Basin for the last 15 or 16 years, and would it not be advisable to send out to the Soviet Union some of our experts in this particular field in order to see the progress made there?

Mr. Lloyd

I believe it is a fact that considerable work has been done on the subject in the Soviet Union. I am not aware myself whether that works is definitely on an economic basis, but I will inquire into it.

Back to
Forward to