This report focuses on the shale oil and gas sub-sector of the oil and gas sector. This sub-sector is of growing interest, as the amount of patenting activity has increased significantly since 2000. There are approximately 4,000 published patent families related to the shale oil and gas sub-sector worldwide, of which 100 originate from Canadian applicants. The analysis found that the top five applicants represent only 12% of total patenting activity for this sub-sector. This means that in terms of innovation, the sub-sector may be quite competitive despite the presence of a handful of very large companies.
The clear leader is the China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation (Sinopec Ltd.), with 371 patent families. Other major players with 100 or more patent families include JX Nippon Oil and Energy Corporation (209), Exxon Mobil Corporation (141), Halliburton Energy Services Incorporated (140) and Schlumberger Limited (100). Based on the list of top applicants, it is clear that Chinese, American and Japanese companies are major producers of patent filings in shale oil and gas. In fact, 83% of all priority filings are filed in these three countries, primarily by domestic firms.
The leading Canadian patent filers include Trican Well Service Limited with seven patent families, and Envirollea Incorporated and GASFRAC Energy Services Incorporated, with six patent families each. 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.
Based on the landscape maps, it's obvious that two of the top applicants, Schlumberger and Halliburton, are very active in patenting in the “drilling” and “well formation” technological area. There is also some overlap between Idemitsu and Cosmo Oil Co. patents across the landscape map. At the same time, it appears as though the other top filers are active in areas that are distinct from these four companies. For example, the large distance between technology areas is an indication that there is not much overlap between Schlumberger and Shell's patents and those of the other leading applicants, other than Halliburton. Although Sinopec is active in many technological areas on the landscape maps presented, the company is especially active in the area of “catalytic zeolite coke.”
Shale oil and gas will be an important part of the worldwide energy story for the coming decades. Innovation will play a key role in maximizing what is extracted from these non-traditional oil and gas sources while minimizing the costs and environmental impact of the processes. This report shines a light on the recent patenting activity in the industry in hopes of providing insight for those working in this interesting and important sector.