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Durham Coalfield (Gasification Plant)

Volume 645: debated on Monday 24 July 1961

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asked the Minister of Power what financial authority he has given to the Gas Council for the installation in the Durham coalfield of a Lurgi-type gasification plant.

Is the Minister prepared to give serious consideration to the establishment of a Lurgi plant in the North-East if the Lurgi system proves an economic proposition? Further, does he appreciate the importance of the time factor to the Coal Board in the practical economics of operating Lurgi plants, especially when the Coal Board is to review its finances as a consequence of the Government's recent White Paper on the Financial and Economic Obligations of the Nationalised Industries?

I shall give consideration to the setting up of further Lurgi plants if the Lurgi process turns out to be fully competitive, but it would be dishonest of me to raise too much the hon. Gentleman's hopes about Lurgi plants being built in Durham because, as I understand it, the qualities of Durham coal are not thought most likely to be very suitable for the Lurgi process.

Before giving consent to such proposals as the Lurgi project, will my right hon. Friend consider the advisability of (1) importing methane, and (2) the cracking of suitable petroleum feed stocks imported into the United Kingdom, which would produce gas at an economic price?

I am considering broadly the methane proposals, the use of petroleum feed stocks and the Lurgi process, all as part of one consideration.

Does the Minister realise that the proposed imports of methane are to come from some of the most politically unstable parts of the Middle East? There is trouble now in Algeria and Tunis. May we have an assurance that he will not sanction the import of methane until he knows the results of the studies made by the Gas Council and the Coal Board as to the success of the Lurgi process?

I could not go so far as to say that I shall definitely wait for the outcome of the studies, but I shall certainly wait until I am myself satisfied about the comparative merits of the different ways of making gas here.