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Coal Mining (Ancillary Activities)

Volume 928: debated on Friday 18 March 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Energy (1) if he will clarify the meaning of the phrase in Clause 9(1) of the Coal Industry Bill to the effect that those (petroleum) activities "may lead to the development of chemical processes or methods, or acquisition of commercial, industrial or technological experience or knowledge which may lead to new or improved uses of coal or products of coal" and illustrate it by examples;(2) if he will clarify the meaning of the phrase in Clause 9 of the Coal Industry Bill to the effect that those (petroleum) activities may "provide an outlet for coal or products of coal" and illustrate it by examples.

Lines 20 to 25 of Clause 9(1) of the Coal Industry Bill in effect define the purposes for which the power is sought for the National Coal Board to carry on the activities described in lines 14 to 19. The Board's main object in seeking to carry out these activities will be to achieve a better understanding of the technical, commercial and marketing aspects of petroleum refining and chemical production with a view to identifying the ways in which coal might in the longer term supplement petroleum as a chemical feedstock. It is already technically possible to derive products alternatively from coal or petroleum. As resources of oil decline and the price of oil increases there will be a need to look increasingly to coal as a source of chemical feedstocks. Oil and chemical companies are already engaged in studies of the use of coal, as is the Board, and the Board would intend to co-operate with them.As an illustration of the way in which the activities defined in Clause 9(1) may provide an outlet for coal or products of coal, the National Coal Board would intend to investigate the following possibilities: use of coal instead of petroleum for the provision of steam and power generation at refineries; use of coal for the production of hydrogen for hydrogenation of heavy oil fractions to produce lighter and more valuable products; the blending of coal extract with petroleum-based liquids to produce needle coke for manufacture of electrodes; interchange between coal and petroleum derivatives for the production of benzene, phenol and other aromatics for further processing.