HC Deb 08 November 1973 vol 863 cc253-4W
Mr. Mason

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what progress has been made into the reasearch and development of establishing a process of extracting oil from coal; what level of Government finance has gone into this project; what is the latest estimate of the barrelage of oil from a ton of coal; what is his estimate of the economic feasibility of this process; and if he will make a statement about future developments.

Mr. Tom Boardman

Research and development work in the United States of America on the production of oil from coal is now in or entering the pilot plant stage and commercial processes superior to the Rischer-Tropsch route adopted in South Africa seem likely to emerge, though they may take some years to develop. Progress is being reviewed continuously by scientists of the National Coal Board and my Department. There is no work in this country aimed specifically at the manufacture of oil from coal, but the National Coal Board has a research programme on the solvent extraction of coal to provide chemical and carbon products which could form the basis of a project on synthetic oil production. Tentative estimates from the American work suggest that the production of one ton of synthetic crude oil will require upwards of 2½ tons of coal, with a maximum yield of perhaps 3 barrels of oil per ton of coal. Production cost per ton of oil in United Kingdom terms, based on United States pilot plant results, would be about three times that of the cost per ton of the coal feedstock. This is the background against which the prospects for oil from coal in this country is being examined.