The objective of this report is to shine a light on the recent patenting activity in the shale oil and gas sub-sector in hopes of providing insight for those working in this interesting and important area.
Shale oil and gas will be an important part of the worldwide energy story in the coming decades. Innovation will also play a key role in maximizing what is extracted from these non-conventional oil and gas sources, while at the same time minimizing the costs and environmental impact of the processes.
This sub-sector is of growing interest as the amount of patenting activity has increased by 188% since 2000. The data shows that there are approximately 4,000 published patent families related to the shale oil and gas sub-sector worldwide, of which 100 are from Canadian applicants. The analysis found that the top five applicants represent only 12% of total patenting activity for this sub-sector. In terms of innovation, this means that the industry may be quite competitive despite the presence of a handful of very large companies.
Based on the list of top applicants, it is clear that Chinese, American and Japanese companies are major producers of patent filings worldwide. The leading Canadian patent filers include Trican Well Service Limited, Envirollea Incorporated and GASFRAC Energy Services Incorporated. These top Canadian filers are all headquartered in Calgary, Alberta. When examining patenting activity at CIPO, the overall findings are very similar to those of the worldwide analysis, but on a smaller scale, as most of the major players are patenting in Canada.
Using patent landscape maps, we can see where patenting activity overlaps, indicating potential collaboration or intense innovation competition. We can also see that some top filers are active in areas distinct from those of other leading filers.
Description of Image 1
Image 1 describes two methods for extracting shale gas. The left side represents the unconventional gas production where the drilling is made deeper from its source, in the rock formation represented in the lower part of the image. In this case, the image demonstrates the fracturing of the rock formation where gas is locked as a result of horizontal fracturing.
The right side represents the conventional gas production where a well is drilled vertically to reach a gas reservoir in sandstone, which is where gas migrates from solid rock formation, also represented in the lower part of the image.
The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) classifies this industry sub-sector under the parent grouping “Mining, Quarrying, and Oil and Gas Extraction” (NAICS 21). The sub-grouping is Non-Conventional Oil Extraction. This industry includes companies involved in the production of crude oil from surface shale, tar sands or from reservoirs in which the hydrocarbons are semisolids and conventional production methods are not possible. Companies in this industry sub-sector use advanced drilling techniques to extract oil and gas from shale formations. These techniques involve drilling deep below the surface, turning their drill bits to create horizontal wells, and then blasting water, sand and chemicals at a high pressure into the wells,which opens up fissures in shale formations and allows oil and gas to be pumped to the surface.