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Thursday, 18 February 1932


Mr JAMES (Hunter) .- I desire to draw the attention of the Prime Minister to the position of the coal industry in Australia. This industry is languishing because coal is not being used to the same extent as it was five or ten years ago. One of the chief reasons for this is the adoption of- other means of power. There is now only one hope for the coal industry, namely, the extraction of oil from coal. I have read many reports on this subject. I was instrumental in inducing the last Government to send Dr. Rivett overseas to investigate the various pro cesses of oil extraction from coal. His report held out no hope whatever, because, he said, the extraction of oil from coal was not a commercial proposition. One of the main objections was the accumu\lation of the coke residue, and no commercial use could be found for the coke produced. Even in England, a highlyindustrialized country, no market could be found for the residue, of which there was from 12 to 14 cwt. left from each ton of coal treated. He stated that low temperature distillation and hydrogenation of coal did not offer attractive economic possibilities, though there were other reasons which might justify the extraction of oil from coal. A conference was held in November of last year in Pittsburg, in the United States of America, to consider this matter, and I asked the Government to send a representative, but it refused. A paper was submitted by Professor Wheeler to that conference, which showed that there were great possibilities in a new process which had been invented by an Italian named Piero Salemi. The paper stated -

Professor Wheeler revealed that the newfound system devised by Commendatore Piero Salemi is a variation of a low temperature carbonization process with which the Department of Fuel Technology, Sheffield University, has been experimenting during the last four years, as being that which presented the highest thermal efficiency and yielded true primary oils of the best quality and semicoke (if the highest density obtained by any process. Without impairing the thermal efficiency, Professor Wheeler goes on, or the character of the products yielded by the original system, Salemi has succeeded in increasing the density of the semi-coke so materially (by 25 to 30 per cent.) that it can be accepted as a satisfactory substitute for bituminous coal for general purposes. The calorific value of the coke is also increased, while the process incidentally removes the causes of trouble hitherto experienced in the refining of lowtemperature oils. Mechanical difficulties of plant have also been overcome.

In my electorate, there are two young engineers who have invented a process for low temperature carbonization of coal, and they have proved before the exMinister for Science and Industry (Senator Daly), who visited the district, that they can extract oil from coal on a commercial basis. They have solved the problem of using the coke residue by obtaining from it gas capable of driving motor vehicles. For the last six months, they have had running about Newcastle a five-ton motor lorry propelled by this gas. This morning, during question time, I asked the Prime Minister whether he could afford any assistance to these engineers, and he gave me a discouraging reply. It may be that they have discovered a means of rehabilitating the coal industry in Australia, and, at the same time, of making this country independent of the United States of America and other oversea countries for our supplies of motor fuel. The Government of New South Wales has set aside £10,000 to assist this work, on condition that an equal sum is provided by the Commonwealth. These engineers have stated that if the necessary assistance were obtained, they would employ 30 men immediately in the extraction of oil from coal, and in twelve months' time they would be employing 200 men. The Government should set aside this money, and should make further sums available from time to time for carrying out research work into this important phase of the coal industry. Money has been spent in assisting those engaged in boring for oil, and it is now proved beyond doubt that oil can be successfully extracted from coal. A report recently submitted shows that, by the hydrogenation process, oil can be extracted from coal, and sold at 7d. per gallon, the cost of the coal .used being only 2d. I heard the right honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce), when he was leader of a government, state definitely that if the coal-miners accepted a reduction of 12-J per cent, in their wages, they would ultimately receive more money, and more work would be made available, because the coal trade would boom. That statement has been proved to be incorrect, because, since the resumption of the coal industry after the lockout in the northern district of New South Wales, we find that only 7,000 men arc now employed, compared with 14,000 previously, and they are engaged, on the average, only seven days a fortnight. I hope that serious consideration will be given to the proposal to make funds available to assist in the rehabilitation of the industry.







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