Energy transition technologies: the pace of progress?

This data-file aggregates 20 different TSE patent screens, to assess the pace of progress in different energy technologies. Our short, 3-page summary note on the findings is linked here.

Lithium batteries are most actively researched, with 8,300 patents filed in 2019 ex-China. Autonomous vehicles and additive manufacturing technologies are accelerating fastest, with 10-year patent filing CAGRs of 22% and 53% respectively.

Wind and solar remain heavily researched, but the technologies are maturing, with patent activity -36% and -76% from peak, respectively. The steepest deceleration of interest has been in fuel cells and biofuels, declining at -10% pa and -7% since 2009.

It remains interesting to compare the pace of progress within sub-industries; for example, more supercapacitor patents were filed in 2019 than nuclear patents; while hydraulic fracturing patents remain the most intense focus area within conventional oil and gas.

Battery Patents: Lithium Leaders and New Breakthroughs?

This data-file tabulates the number of patents filed into different types of batteries, by year and by geography. Hence, we have identified the patent leaders in lithium ion technology, based on 158,000 patents and the battery materials that they descibe (above).

Continued cost-deflation in lithium ion is suggested by the 26,000 patents filed in 2019, which has doubled in the past 5-years (below), led by China (two-thirds of the patents). The data-file also shows a clear technology leader, while some companies are accelerating. Others are pulling back on R&D or over-concentrating on cobalt.

Competition is accelerating, making leading technologies important. We recently argued supercapacitors could be better suited for hybridizing industry and transport. Moreover, redox flow batteries are emergingas the most exciting new battery technology for grid storage, with patent activity doubling since 2014, to 894 in 2019 (also above). Hence we include notes on ESS Inc.

Interest has been waning in solid state batteries (-57% since 2014) and liquid metal batteries (-67%).

A description of each battery type is shown in the ‘battery types’ tab. Download the data-file for a break-out of the data by country.

Autonomous vehicles: where’s the IP?

This data-file quantifies the number of patents filed into autonomous vehicles, by year, by geography and by patent family, looking across 37,000 patent filings since  the year 2000. Patent activity has risen at a 27% CAGR over the past decade, indicating a rapid pace of research activity.

The leading patent filers are ranked, including some of the world’s leading automotive companies, tech companies and retail companies. It is interesting to compare the relative activity levels among companies such as Denso, MobilEye, TuSimple, Uber, Waymo and Zoox (recently acquired by Amazon), versus Ford, GM, Honda, Toyota, Volvo et al.

Our notes and a data-pull of all the underlying 2019 patents follow. We find autonomous vehicles could entrench a 10% acceleration in road travel post-COVID, and displace c15% of all air-miles on sub-1,000 mile journeys.

Biofuel, green diesel, renewable diesel: where’s the IP?

This data-file tracks 5,000 patents filed into biofuels: by geography, by company and particularly in 2017-20. The pace of research activity into “biofuels” and “biodiesel” seems to have halved since 2014, suggesting industry interest is waning.

As usual, China has come to dominate the recent patent literature, accounting for 60% of recent filings. Out of the ‘Top 25’ patent filings from 2017-20, 15 are Chinese companies.

Ranked by recent patent filings, technology leaders include Sinopec, BASF, Arkema, Neste, TOTAL, ExxonMobil and DuPont. It is interesting that some well known companies (e.g., Ryze) did not appear to have filed many patents recently. Full details on the patent trends and filings are in the data-file.

Fiber Optic Cables: Patents and Leading Companies?

This data-file screens for the technology leaders in fiber-optic cables, which are crucial for the digitization of industries and the world’s structural shift towards remote-working.

The file starts by tracking 37,000 patents filed into fiber optic cabling, where the pace of research has risen at a 14% CAGR since 2009, with 75% of 2019’s patents filed in China and 18% in the US.

The 2019 data are shown more granularly in the ‘2019’ tab, aggregating descriptions of 4,000 patents and the companies behind them.

From these patents, we identify and evaluate the largest listed companies in fiber-optics, including a helpful profile of each company, their revenues, and the percent of their revenues  from fiber-optic cables.

Hydraulic Fracturing: where’s the IP?

This data-file tracks 17,000 hydraulic fracturing patents filed by geography, by company, by year, since 2010; but particularly in 2019.

Frac patents peaked in 2017-18 at c3,900 per year. 2020 has slowed by 6%. But the headline figures mask a c36% correction in the US, masked by 33% expansion of Chinese shale ambitions. Remarkably, in 2019, the leading Chinese Major filed more hydraulic fracturing patents than the leading US Service provider.

Company trends. Over the past three years, among larger companies, the top US Services filed c45% of the patents, Chinese Majors filed c40%, DM producers filed c5% and niche service copanies files c10%.

A granular breakdown for 2019 tabulates 1,900 patents, including their descriptions, which you can interrogate fully.

Solar Energy: Where’s the IP?

This data-file tracks 110,000 solar patents filed by geography, by company, by year, since 2000; but particularly in 2019.

Solar patent filings peaked in 2012-13 at 11,500 patents per year. Many  geographies have since slowed by 50-90%; except China, which hit a new peak off 3,500 patents in 2019, leading the industry.

A granular breakdown for 2019 tabulates 6,000 patents, including their descriptions, which you can interrogate fully. 14 out of the top 25 solar patent filers in that year were Chinese companies.

The largest US and European patent filers are also shown. So are the Majors, which have recently filed c30 patents per year (0.5% of the total), two thirds of which can be attributed to a single SuperMajor, looking to scale up in solar.

Offshore Wind Patents: Majors and Services?

This data-file tracks wind patents, across 20 traditional energy companies, comprising cap goods conglomerates, Oil Majors and Offshore Oil Services. The aim is to assess which companies have differentiated IP to benefit from the scale-up of offshore wind.

Traditional offshore-focused energy companies (ie Majors and Oil Services) are not generally found to have differentiated wind IP, comprising <2% of the offshore wind patents since 2000. 2 Majors and 2 Service companies have, however, made interesting inroads.

Covered companies include: ABB, Aker, Alstom, Aramco, BP, Cameron, Chevron, Eni, Equinor, ExxonMobil, GE, OneSubsea, Saipem, Shell, Siemens, Subsea 7, Technip, TOTAL and Vestas.

Fuel Cell Patents: twenty years of progress?

This data-file tabulates the numbers of patents filed into different types of fuel-cells, from 2000-2020, globally and in key geographies: China, Japan, Korea and the US.

Research activity peaked in 2008 and has since fallen by 30%, as Japanese research into Solid Oxide fuel cells and Proton Exchange Membranes both declined by 75%; however China’s research has ascended and comprises 65% of the patent filings from 2019.

In particular, we focus in upon Molten Carbonate Fuel Cells, tabulating 120 patents into this reactor design, including descriptions of each patent and a categorization by company.

An overview of different fuel cell types is also provided as an introduction to the topic.

Subsea Services: Patent Leaders?

This data-file captures all the subsea-focused patents from ten of the largest subsea service providers around the industry, to quantify who has a technical edge (chart above).

The balance has been shifting. During the oil downturn, large, industrial conglomerates effectively halved their pace of technology development, while some subsea service companies accelerated (chart below).

The relative rankings are interesting. The data-file shows clear leaders in the categories such as subsea pumps, wellheads or umbilicals. Other areas are more competitive, with 2-3 companies vying for leadership in, flexible risers, subsea power or pipe-lay. One large subsea EPC screens as ‘Top 5’ on most categories, but is facing strong competion across the board.

Covered companies include: ABB, Aker, Cameron, FMC,  GE, OneSubsea, Saipem, Siemens, Subsea7, Technip.