Synthetic Fuels Corp. Chairman Edward Noble has appointed former representative Tom Corcoran (R-Ill.) as the agency's acting vice chairman, a new post that temporarily will pay a Cabinet-level salary of $83,300.

Corcoran, recently named to the Synfuels board of directors by President Reagan, was given responsibility for liaison with Congress, state and local governments, the news media and the synfuels industry, an agency spokesman said.

Corcoran's appointment comes amidst an internal debate over the agency's future that has divided Noble and some of the new board members, according to agency sources. Noble had hoped to install Norman Callner, a vice president of Houston Natural Gas Co., as the agency's new $135,000-a-year president at a board of directors meeting last Thursday.

But the three new board members -- Corcoran, Paul W. MacAvoy and Eric Reichl -- balked at the move, arguing that they need more time to assess the direction of the nation's synfuels program.

At the Thursday meeting, the board also put off decisions on any of the synfuels projects before the agency, including a request by sponsors of the Great Plains coal-gasification project in Beulah, N.D., for an additional $720 million in federal subsidies.

Corcoran, who also will receive $10,000 in annual directors' fees, said Friday that he believed that the agency's salary and administrative structure should be scaled back.

"We have to take into account the president is attempting to bring down the cost of government," he said. "This is a time of austerity. The Synthetic Fuels Corp. ought to do its share."

Last week's meeting was the agency's first since April, when former president and board member Victor Thompson resigned over alleged ethics violations. Since then, Congress has cut $5.3 billion from the Synfuels budget, but the agency still has $8 billion left to award in federal subsidies for projects.