HC Deb 23 June 1961 vol 642 cc172-4W
Mr. Nabarro

asked the Minister of Power what further action he has taken on the Report of the Wilson Committee; and whether he will make a statement.

Mr. Wood

The Wilson Committee was asked to make recommendations about the direction of further research and development work on promising processes for making gas, oil and chemicals from coal, and the type of organisation or organisations best suited to carry out such work.

I accept the Committee's view that in this field town gas offers the greatest scope for expansion, but that to make this possible, new plants will have to make gas more cheaply than existing ones. I have therefore decided, in agreement with the Gas Council and the National Coal Board, to accept the Committee's recommendations that:

  1. (a) The development of high-pressure slagging gasifiers should be pursued.
  2. (b) The Gas Council should be responsible for further work on the standard Lurgi gasifier using British coals, on the Otto-Rummel gasifier and on any further gasifiers suitable for town gas.
  3. (c) The Gas Council should be responsible for development work on slagging gasifiers.
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  5. (d) The National Coal Board should be responsible for work on producer gas plants.

I also accept the Committee's view that the prospects of making oil from coal economicalily in this country are so remote that no further technological work on the development of this process should be undertaken at present. The Department of Scientific and Industrial Research has consequently wound up its development work on this process, but in accordance with the Committee's recommendations it is continuing basic studies on catalysis and is keeping in touch with developments in making oil from coal.

My Department has been carrying out research and development on the slagging gasification of coal as a means of providing the raw material for oil synthesis. The Committee recognised the potential value of slagging gasification for making town gas and considered that the Gas Council should be responsible for the whole of the development work on slagging gasifiers. At the same time the Committee recognised that it would be difficult for the Gas Council to take over immediate responsibility for the work sponsored by my Department. I have therefore arranged for the work to be continued by my Department until 31st March, 1962, when the Gas Council will become responsible for all work on this subject.

The total gasification of coal is a matter of great concern to the National Coal Board which is anxious to do all it can, in co-operation with the Gas Council to promote its development. The Gas Council and the National Coal Board are making a joint economic study of the possibilities of the Lurgi process, which might later be extended to include slagging gasification. This study will help to define the scope for further development of the process and provide a basis for further co-operation between the Gas Council and the Board in the field of total gasification.