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.

Battery Patents: Lithium Deflation, New Breakthroughs?

This data-file tabulates the number of patents filed into different types of batteries, by year and by geography.

Continued deflation in lithium ion battery costs is suggested by the 26,000 patents filed in 2019, which has doubled in the past 5-years, led by China (two-thirds of the patents).

Redox flow batteries are emerging as the most exciting new technology, with patent activity doubling since 2014, to 894 in 2019, also led by China, followed by the US. 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.

Heliogen: concentrated solar breakthrough?

Heliogen has set a new record for concentrated solar power in November 2019, generating >1,000C temperatures from an array of c370 hexagonal mirrors, which are precisely controlled using computer vision. This is almost 2x traditional CSP plants which achieve c560C temperatures.

We have reviewed 21 patents from Heliogen’s predecessor company, eSolar, in order to understand its IP. Not only can it control heliostats more precisely than prior companies, but this allows the heliostats to be down-sized, conferring material cost-savings.

This data-file summarizes the technology, the patents, the costs (in c/kWh and $/mcfe) and the opportunity to decarbonise industrial heat and power generation.

Upgrading Catalysts: lower refinery temperatures and pressures?

Catalysts matter for refinery energy and CO2 intensity, as is shown in this data-file: It tabulates temperature and pressure conditions, disclosed for different refinery units, based on over 50 patents from leading energy Majors.

The average refinery process takes place at 450C. But variability is high. Hence our data-file explains the variations as a function of the different catalyst compositions, being pioneered by the different companies.

Combining all the best-in-class new catalysts in the datafile, we think the average refinery could save 5kg/bbl of CO2 intensity: across hydrocracking, FCCs, steam cracking, coking, dewaxing, hydrotreating, alkylation and reforming.

At the cutting edge of EOR?

This data-file summarises 120 patents into Enhanced Oil Recovery, filed by the leading Oil Majors in 2018. Based on the data, we identify the “top five companies” and what they are doing at the cutting edge of EOR.

We find clear leaders for water-flooding both carbonate and sandstone reservoirs. At mature fields, we think these operators may be able to derive >10pp higher recovery factors; and by extension, lower decline rates, higher cash flows and higher margins.

As more of the world’s oilfields age, having an “edge” in EOR technology will make particular Oil Majors more desirable operators and partners, to avoid the higher costs and CO2 intensities of developing new fields to replace them.


Lubricant Leaders: our top five conclusions

This data-file presents our “top five” conclusions on the lubricants industry, after reviewing 240 patents, filed by the Oil Majors in 2018. The underlying data on each of the 240 patents is also shown in the ‘LubricantPatents’ tab.

We are most impressed by the intense pace of activity to improve engine efficiencies (chart above), across  over 20 different categories. As usual, we think technology leadership will drive margins and market shares. ‘Major 1’ stands out, striving hardest to gain an edge, by a factor of 2x. ‘ Major 2 has the ‘greenest’ lubricant patents, across EVs and bio-additives. Major 4 has the single most intriguing new technology in the space.

The relative number of patents into Electric Vehicle Lubricants is also revealing. It shows the Majors’ true attitudes on electrification, in a context where they are incentivised to sell new products into the EV sector. Our lubricant demand forecasts to 2050 are also noted.