The oil and gas industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by the need for increased productivity, energy efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and emission reduction, and the growing importance of technologies such as biofuel catalytic cracking, green hydrogen synthesis and carbon capture. 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: 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 and 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 and gas industry

Bio-fuels is a key innovation area in environmental sustainability

Biofuels are derived from biomass such as plants and animal waste or even from micro-organisms. They include ethanol (derived from edible sources such as corn, sorghum, sugarcane and wheat), green diesel (derived from non-edible sources such as agricultural waste, animal fats, and used cooking oils) and biogas (derived from animal waste).

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 50+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established oil & gas companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of bio-fuels.

Key players in bio-fuels – a disruptive innovation in the oil and 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’.

Anellotech is one of the leading companies involved in developing technologies to produce renewable chemicals and recycling mixed plastics. Chemicals and fuels are produced from sustainable, non-food biomass using the company's patented Bio-TCat (Thermal Catalytic Biomass Conversion) technology.

In April 2021, Total began producing sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) at its La Mède biorefinery in southern France and its Oudalle facility near Le Havre. The bio jet fuel has been delivered to French airports since April 2021. The sustainable aviation fuel is made from animal fat, used cooking oil and other waste and residue sourced from the circular economy.

Energy, transportation, and environmental research are major focus areas for IFP Energies nouvelles . The company is creating eco-efficient technologies in collaboration with industrial players to produce biofuels. A few biofuel production technologies include Vegan™, Futurol™, and BioTfueL® (thermochemical process).

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.