HC Deb 08 June 1959 vol 606 cc630-2
48. Mr. Russell

asked the Paymaster-General what research has been carried out into the possibilities of recovering methane gas from sewage treatment; and what estimate has been made of its cost compared with imported methane gas.

Sir I. Horobin

The process of recovering methane gas from sewage is already well understood and about thirty schemes are in operation throughout the country. It is, however, costly and is only economic at the largest sewage works. It is not yet possible to estimate the cost of producing town gas from liquid methane.

Mr. Russell

As the Gas Council has been importing methane, can my hon. Friend say whether it is more expensive than methane produced from these schemes, and will research be continued to try to cheapen the schemes as time goes on and make them more economic?

Sir I. Horobin

As I said in my first answer, as yet nobody really knows what is the cost of imported methane. That is the object of the test voyages. However, the sewage gas supplies could only contribute something of the order of one-tenth of 1 per cent. of national fuel supplies. I do not think, therefore, that the two are really comparable.

53. Mr. Neal

asked the Paymaster-General if he will lay before the House the details of the agreement he has authorised between the Gas Council and Constock for the experimental import of liquid methane into the United Kingdom.

Sir I. Horobin

No, Sir. This is a commercial agreement between the Council and an American company.

Mr. Neal

Would the Minister say why he will not disclose the agreement? Is this another instance of the stranglehold of American capital on British industry? If we must have liquid methane, how long will it be before we get it from our own oilfields in the Middle East?

Sir I. Horobin

I think the suspicious nature of some hon. Gentlemen opposite about the activities of a nationalised industry is extraordinary. [An HON. MEMBER: "Answer the question."] The gas industry, as a commercial undertaking, has come to the conclusion that this is something worth doing, and the Government have concurred. It is not normal for commercial agreements, either in the public or in the private field, to be published, and that is all that my answer stated.

Mr. J. Griffiths

Do I understand from the Parliamentary Secretary that the Ministry of Power, whose function we presume it is to co-ordinate our fuel and power resources in order to make the best use of them, has not taken any view about the importation of liquid methane, with all the consequences that this might have for the coal industry?

Sir I. Horobin

Again, the right hon. Gentleman must not assume that. We are taking a great interest in the matter. The first thing to do is to find out if this is economic or not. The very forthcoming attitude of the Gas Council should be supported if it thinks, and finds out, that this is an economic source of power for British industry. In an enterprising way the Gas Council is trying to find out exactly what are the facts, and the Ministry is awaiting those facts. When they are determined, it will be the proper time to make a decision of policy as to whether or not to encourage further its commercial use.

Mr. H. Morrison

The hon. Gentleman, in reply to my hon. Friend's Question, said that the agreement has been authorised between the Government and the Gas Council. If that is so, surely it is wrong for him to refuse to lay it before the House? The House of Commons has a right to know what the agreement is about.

Sir I. Horobin

I am afraid I must keep to what I have said already. It is not normal for commercial agreements of this kind to be published.

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