The oil & gas industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity is driven by rising energy demand and the need to reduce emissions, and growing importance of technologies such as subsea infrastructure, hydraulic fracturing, and lateral drilling. In the last three years alone, there have been over 523,000 patents filed and granted in the oil & gas industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Innovation in oil & gas: downhole tools. Buy the report here.

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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 stabilizing 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.

60+ 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 196,000 patents, there are 60+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Within the emerging innovation stage, high-pressure gas vessels, boil-off gas treatment, and oil recovery CWI are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Green hydrogen synthesis, hydrocarbon lubricants, and oil well surveillance are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are cryogenic gas separation and olefin metathesis catalysts, which are now well established in the industry.

Innovation S-curve for the oil & gas industry

Downhole tools is a key innovation area in oil & gas

Downhole tools are specialized tools and equipment used in oil and gas drilling operations to carry out various tasks such as drilling, sampling, testing, and completion of a wellbore. These tools are typically designed to withstand the harsh and extreme conditions of the downhole environment, including high temperature, high pressure, and abrasive materials.

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 170+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established oil & gas companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of downhole tools.

Key players in downhole tools – a disruptive innovation in the oil & gas industry

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

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

Patent volumes related to downhole tools

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Halliburton 1401 Unlock Company Profile
Weatherford International 1104 Unlock Company Profile
Shell 688 Unlock Company Profile
Schlumberger 608 Unlock Company Profile
Baker Hughes 471 Unlock Company Profile
Marathon Oil 146 Unlock Company Profile
China National Petroleum 139 Unlock Company Profile
China Petrochemical 129 Unlock Company Profile
Yantai Jereh Oilfield Services Group 121 Unlock Company Profile
Saudi Arabian Oil 120 Unlock Company Profile
Exxon Mobil 105 Unlock Company Profile
Equinor 104 Unlock Company Profile
ProFrac 86 Unlock Company Profile
Evolution Well Services 85 Unlock Company Profile
Enventure Global Technology 73 Unlock Company Profile
RPC 68 Unlock Company Profile
Typhon Technology Solutions 68 Unlock Company Profile
Welltec 66 Unlock Company Profile
TechnipFMC 53 Unlock Company Profile
InflowControl 51 Unlock Company Profile
Dril-Quip 45 Unlock Company Profile
Bisn Tec 41 Unlock Company Profile
Prad Research And Development 38 Unlock Company Profile
NCS Multistage 37 Unlock Company Profile
General Electric 37 Unlock Company Profile
Eni 32 Unlock Company Profile
TotalEnergies 31 Unlock Company Profile
CNPC Chuanqing Drilling Engineering 30 Unlock Company Profile
Chevron U. S. A. 27 Unlock Company Profile
NOV 24 Unlock Company Profile
SiGNa Chemistry 22 Unlock Company Profile
S.P.C.M. 22 Unlock Company Profile
Energy Recovery 21 Unlock Company Profile
Darcy Technologies 21 Unlock Company Profile
Oren Technologies 20 Unlock Company Profile
The Weir Group 19 Unlock Company Profile
Swelltec 18 Unlock Company Profile
Caterpillar 17 Unlock Company Profile
Siemens Energy 16 Unlock Company Profile
Oil States International 16 Unlock Company Profile
Kirby 16 Unlock Company Profile
Equinor 16 Unlock Company Profile
ConocoPhillips 15 Unlock Company Profile
Absolute Completion Technologies 15 Unlock Company Profile
Linc Energy 15 Unlock Company Profile
Magnesium Elektron 14 Unlock Company Profile
Pyrophase 14 Unlock Company Profile
NexTier Oilfield Solutions 13 Unlock Company Profile
VBT A/S 13 Unlock Company Profile
Siemens 13 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Weatherford International is one of the leading patent filers in downhole tools for the oil & gas industry. A leading equipment and service provider, Weatherford International offers strategic solutions for hydrocarbon exploration and production. The company also rents out downhole tools to customers for drilling purposes. Depending upon the wellsite, the company offers products such as chemical-injection equipment and steam-injection equipment for enhanced oil recovery. Some other key patent filers in the space include Shell, Schlumberger, and Baker Hughes.

In terms of application diversity, Jereh leads the pack, while Typhon Technology Solutions and SiGNa Chemistry stood in the second and third positions, respectively. Jereh offers oilfield equipment and technological support including downhole tools for oil and gas operators. These include coiled tubing downhole tools, fracturing tools, cementing tools, and completion tools.

By means of geographic reach, Bisn Tec held the top position, followed by Evolution Well Services and SiGNa Chemistry. Bisn Tec offers technology solutions for well drilling/completion, well intervention, and well plug and abandonment. It has operations across the globe with regional offices in the Americas, Europe, Oceania, and the Middle East.

It is important to develop and maintain new hydrocarbon discoveries to keep up with the global oil and gas demand. Advancements in downhole tools improve production rates and reduce wastage of the hydrocarbon resource.

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

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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.