Armand Hammer, chairman of Occidental Petroleum, said today that he and two officials of Bechtel Corp. have discussed with Soviet officials the possibility of constructing a major pipeline to carry liquefied coal from Siberia to Moscow.
He said Soviet Foreign Trade Minister Nikolai Patolichev "was interested" in the proposal.
Hammer identified the two Bechtel officials as Peter Behr, a vice president, and Richard Hill, head of the company's slurry division. Bechtel has technology for the slurry process by which coal is liquefied by mixing it with methanol and shipped at high speed through a pipeline.
The project, which would involve laying the pipeline across the Ural Mountains, appeared to be equal if not larger in scope than the controversial Siberian pipeline to transport natural gas to Western Europe. The Reagan administration has opposed European participation in the construction of the Siberian pipeline.
Secretary of State George P. Shultz and Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger are former officials of Bechtel.
"I hope we will not have the same problems as they had with the gas pipeline," Hammer told a news conference at his branch office here. He and Bechtel "hope we will persuade the administration to give us clearance" for the project.
In Washington, a White House official predicted that the administration would quash any attempt to use American technology in building the coal slurry pipeline. "We're certainly not going to be in favor of such a request," he said.
A Bechtel spokesman confirmed the presence of the two company officials during Hammer's talks in Moscow but said "it would be premature to discuss" any possible role Bechtel might play in the project.
Hammer said the slurry pipeline "would not be for export, it will be purely for use within Russia."
He said that Bechtel, "a leader in the field of building slurry," would be joined by Occidental and the Italian firm of ENI. The Italians, he added, "have been for some time discussing with the Soviets the consutrction of a slurry pipeline." He added that Bechtel has been very successful in slurry coal projects in the United States.
If the project is approved by the administration, Hammer said, Bechtel was ready to undertake a feasibility study.