HC Deb 20 April 1959 vol 604 cc2-4
4. Mr. Darling

asked the Paymaster-General if he will make a statement on the most recent developments in the technique of producing gas from oil.

Mr. Maudling

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given by my hon. Friend to the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Neal) on 9th February.

Mr. Darling

Although I know of the Answer to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred, is he aware that gas from oil developments are going on at a very great pace? Is he sure that there are economies in this business which justify the change-over from coal to oil? Is he satisfied that the Gas Council is doing the right thing in these developments, in view of the fact that we have an indigenous source of fuel which is probably cheaper in the long run?

Mr. Maudling

The hon. Member is raising a rather larger question than arises from his original Question. He refers in his Question to the technique by which we are investigating, and I am sure rightly investigating, this matter, but whether we should use this particular process is another matter.

19. Mr. A. Roberts

asked the Paymaster-General what progress has been made in the investigation of the high-pressure method of producing gas from inferior fuels.

24. Mr. Fitch

asked the Paymaster-General if he will report on the progress made in the process of extracting oil from coal.

Mr. Maudling

I would refer the hon. Members to the Answer given to my hon. Friend the Member for Pollok (Mr. George) on 16th April.

Mr. Roberts

Is the Minister aware that at the present time the Gas Council is trying to make up its mind whether it will use liquid methane, gas from oil, or high-pressure gas from inferior coal? Is the Minister further aware that we are interested in the possibilities of the economic production of gas from inferior coal?

Mr. Maudling

I can assure the hon. Member that my noble Friend is extremely interested in the possibilities of producing either gas or oil, or both, from inferior coals. All these various experi- ments are very much linked with one another.

Mr. Fitch

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the process of extracting oil from coal is being carried out successfully in South Africa? Surely the same thing could be done here.

Mr. Maudling

That is rather a large assumption. One must have regard to the types of coal and to the conditions and also to the question whether it is an economic process as well as a technically feasible process.

Mr. Shinwell

What does the right hon. Gentleman mean by saying that the Ministry is interested in carrying out experiments in the production of oil from coal? Is he aware that these experiments have been conducted over the past forty years, were known to us at the Ministry of Mines as long ago as 1924 and have been continued ever since? There are almost 200 processes, some of which are in operation. Has he heard of low-temperature carbonisation and the production of oil from coal in this and other countries? What does the Minister mean by announcing that he has appointed a committee to engage in research into a matter into which there has been any amount of research over the years?

Mr. Maudling

The right hon. Gentleman has great experience of this and knows that while it is possible to make oil from coal it is another matter to make it on an economic basis.

Mr. Shinwell

The right hon. Gentleman has something to learn.