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Tuesday, 15 March 1932

Mr LYONS - On the 25th February, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) asked me the following questions, upon notice : -

1.   Has the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research any comprehensive data on the qualities of Maitland coal insofar as it affects the oilyields and yields of other byproducts on carbonization at different temperatures?

2.   How do these coals compare with the average bituminous coals of England and other countries ?

3.   Based on analysis, could greater yields of oil be expected from Maitland coals than from English and other coals?

4.   Would an "activated" coke be asuitable fuel for producer gas-driven vehicles?

5.   Would the production of such a fuel be of interest to such a committe as that of the Commonwealth Unemployed Secretariat (Producer Gas Committee) ?

6.   Has the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research any information on the Cannel coals of the northern coal measures?

7.   Has either of the Lyon Brothers made any extravagant claims?

8.   What are the extravagant claims made on their behalf to which Dr. Rivett, chief executive officer of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, referred to in a recent report after inspecting Lyon Brothers' plant?

9.   In compiling this report, was any consideration given to the national and economic or social aspect by developing our own mineral resources for the production of motor fuel, thereby ensuring our independence of overseas supplies and the continuance of our motor transport 'in the event of war ?

10.   If consideration were given to this aspect of the position of Australia, will the Minister consider the setting aside of a substantial sum of money for the development of this industry, thereby taking a lead instead of waiting to follow other countries in this important matter?

11.   Would it be possible to establish within the next five years works for the profitable hydrogenation of bituminous coal without the technical assistance of the Standard Oil Company of America, the Imperial Chemical Industries Limited, the I.G. Company of Germany, or the subsidiaries of such companies ?

I am now in a position to furnish the following reply: -

1.   The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has not compiled any comprehensive data on the qualities of Maitland coal, but this information is obtained when required from the Department of Mines, New South Wales.

2.   The council advises that Greta coal runs up to 40 per cent. volatile constituents, a figure higher than that of most bituminous coals elsewhere.

3.   The council states that coals vary greatly, but that certain Maitland coals are rich in volatile constituents. See also reply to No. 2.

4.   The term " activated coke " requires definition. As ordinary coke can be used in producer gas-driven vehicles, a more readily combustible form of coke would presumably be suitable.

5.   The Unemployment Secretariat was set up by the Premiers Conference which met in August, 1931. and the secretariat ceased to function when it furnished its report to the conference.

6.   The council has no special knowledge of these coals. See reply to No.1.

7.   I am advised that Messrs. Lyon Brothers did not make any extravagant claims to Dr. Rivett.

8.   The honorable member is no doubt aware that the reference was to the expectations entertained in certain quarters that the adoption of the Lyon Brothers' process would lead to supplies of cheap fuel oils, and of a substitute for petrol in certain motor vehicles, and to greatly increased demand for coal resulting in re-employment of large numbers of miners. Dr. Rivett regards these expectations as unwarranted.

9.   Dr. Rivettwas asked to report upon the economic feasibility of Messrs. Lyon Brothers' process, and not upon the national or social aspects of the production of oil from coal.

10.   The Government is watching closely the general position, but, in the light of expert information available, does not regard low- temperature carbonization as the most promising line of development. In the course of a statement issued recently by the VicePresident of the Executive Council, the whole question of the production of oil from coal by what are known as low-temperature carbonization and the hydrogenation processes was dealt with in detail. If the honorable member has not seen this statement in the press, I will furnish him with a copy.

11.   The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research regards this as possible, but not very probable, because of the extensive technical research work undertaken by these companies.

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