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Commercial Production of Oil from Coal

    Naturevolume 140page143 (1937) | Download Citation



    ON July 14, the House of Lords debated a Motion by Lord Mottistone that plant for obtaining oil from coal should be set up in Durham and South Wales in the interests both of national defence and increase of employment. Lord McGowan said that the experience of Imperial Chemical Industries, Ltd., has established the technical possibility of such processes but at capital and operating costs so high that the process, even with the assistance of existing protection, is not attractive to private capital. Success would have to depend not on private initiative, but on Government policy. The production of heavy oil for marine purposes from coal is at present uneconomical. The effect on employment ought not to be exaggerated. A plant capable of producing 150,000 tons of petrol annually provides work for 6,000 persons of whom 2,500 would be miners. Low-temperature carbonization and hydrogenation are complementary processes, and increased use of smokeless household fuels would promote both national security and national welfare. Hydrogenation processes, he emphasized, are a question of high national policy and beyond the purview of an ordinary limited liability company. Reference was made to the Fischer process and other methods of developing the use of coal. Lord Hutchinson, in reply, said the Government is awaiting the report of Lord Fal-mouth's Committee before deciding its policy for the production of oil from coal. Meanwhile, it is encouraging the establishment of plant for carbonizing coal at low temperatures, and another will be in production in South Wales next year.

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