The oil and gas industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by the need for improved productivity, safety and sustainability, including the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, with the growing importance of technologies such as scrubbing, wet, semi-wet, and dry flue gas treatment. In the last three years alone, there have been over 534,000 patents filed and granted in the oil & gas industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Environment Sustainability in Oil & Gas: Flue gas treatment.

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

Flue gas treatment is a key innovation area in environmental sustainability

Flue gas treatment technology essentially involves a post combustion process designed to turn NOx into nitrates or molecular nitrogen.

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 60+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established oil & gas companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of flue gas treatment.

Key players in flue gas treatment – 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’.

In terms of application diversity, G4 Insights leads, while in terms of geographic reach of patents, Saipem held the top position.

3M ™ Liqui-Cel™ Membrane Contactors developed by 3M is effectively used in the treatment of flue gas. By incorporating 3M ™ Liqui-Cel™ Membrane Contactors for Transmembrane Chemisorption (TMCS), the flue gas is emitted from burning biomass. The process of treating flue gas involves two key steps. The flue gas is first "dry" separated to eliminate any remaining particles. Wet separation is used in the second stage to remove excess particles, acids, and salts. Many segments of oil and gas industries such as refineries, FPSOs, and offshore platforms benefit from the membrane gas transfer technology developed by 3M . A few applications include but are not limited to water flooding, removal of CO2 using ion exchange, boiler feedwater deoxygenation, etc.

Another top company for flue gas treatment is Air Liquide with its CryocapTM Oxy technology. Oxy-combustion flue gas serves as the feed for CryocapTM Oxy to capture CO2. The gas is then cooled down and majority of the components such as nitrogen oxides, dust, hydrochloric acid, and sulphur oxides are removed in the pre-treatment unit. The gas is compressed and dried before flowing into the cryogenic purification system. The CO2 is then separated and collected.

Flue gas treatment will continue to become the favoured approach by many oil and gas companies as they continue to seek harmful NOx into nitrates or molecular nitrogen. It helps companies to cut dangerous emissions reduction and mitigate climate change.

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.