The oil and gas industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by the need for improved productivity, enhanced safety and sustainability, and growing importance of technologies such as IoT, AI, cloud computing, big data, and machine learning. In the last three years alone, there have been over 534,000 patents filed and granted in the oil and gas industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Environment Sustainability in Oil & Gas: Aviation bio-fuels.

However, not all innovations are equal and nor do they follow a constant upward trend. Instead, their evolution takes the form of an S-shaped curve that reflects their typical lifecycle from early emergence to accelerating adoption, before finally stabilising and reaching maturity.

Identifying where a particular innovation is on this journey, especially those that are in the emerging and accelerating stages, is essential for understanding their current level of adoption and the likely future trajectory and impact they will have.

40+ innovations will shape the oil & gas industry

According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which plots the S-curve for the oil & gas industry using innovation intensity models built on over 256,000 patents, there are 40+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Within the emerging innovation stage, carbon capture MOFs and biogas carbon capturing are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Methane capturing, natural gas CO2 capturing, and flue gas treatment are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are bio-fuels and aviation bio-fuels, which are now well established in the industry. 

Innovation S-curve for environmental sustainability in the oil & gas industry

Aviation bio-fuels is a key innovation area in environmental sustainability

Aviation biofuels can be derived from biomass such as plants or waste oils. Plant sources that serve as promising feedstock for production of aviation biofuels include algae, jatropha, palm oil, tallows and camelina. 

GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies. According to GlobalData, there are 30+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established oil & gas companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of aviation bio-fuels.

Key players in aviation bio-fuels – a disruptive innovation in the oil & gas industry

‘Application diversity’ measures the number of different applications identified for each relevant patent and broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators.

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of different countries each relevant patent is registered in and reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’.

Shell is a leading patent filer on aviation biofuels. Shell uses the Hefa (Hydroprocessed Esters and Fatty Acids) pathway along with co-processing to generate sustainable aviation fuels from animal waste feedstock and crop oils.

TerraVia , formerly known as Solazyme, makes use of algae and other oils to produce sustainable biofuels for jet engines, while UPM , is actively conducting engineering for a biorefinery that aims to produce biofuel for aviation as well as maritime industries. The biorefinery will have an annual capacity of approximately 0.5 million tonnes.

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the oil & gas industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Top 20 Oil & Gas Themes 2022.

GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article.

GlobalData’s Patent Analytics tracks patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Textual analysis and official patent classifications are used to group patents into key thematic areas and link them to specific companies across the world’s largest industries.