HC Deb 13 February 1978 vol 944 cc9-10
7. Mr. Forman

asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he will set out the various forms and amounts of support provided by his Department for new coal technologies, especially the production of coal-based substitute natural gas.

Mr. Eadie

The Department of Energy is supporting participation by the National Coal Board and the British Gas Coporation in the programme of research and development into new coal conversion technologies mounted under the auspices of the International Energy Agency. The amount of support agreed by the Department is as follows: fluidised bed combustion, £3¾ million; coal gasification effluent treatment, £18,000; pyrolysis of coal, £914,000.

No support is being provided for the production of coal-based substitute natural gas at the present time as our already considerable capability in this field is being strengthened through association with major projects in the United States of America.

Mr. Forman

Is the Minister satisfied that enough is being done by the Government in this important area of coal-based synthetic natural gas? It has great economic potential for the future. The Department of Energy has said that it could be competitive with electricity from conventional stations in the not-too-distant future.

Mr. Eadie

If the hon. Gentleman cares to study the report of the working party from the tripartite agreement when it is published, he will realise that the Department is well aware of the prospects for synthetic natural gas. But the position in this country is special in view of our natural gas supplies from the North Sea.

Mr. Carter-Jones

Is my hon. Friend aware that the Agecroft colliery, for example, provides its coal straight to the Agecroft station? Is he further aware that this has proved effective in saving diesel fuel and that the new technologies mean that waste products are also put to good use?

Mr. Eadie

I could not agree more with my hon. Friend.