The oil and gas industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by the need for improved efficiency, productivity and sustainability. The industry is pursuing a clean energy transition, driving growth in investment in technologies such as green hydrogen, fuel cells, and carbon capture and storage (CCS). 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: Green hydrogen synthesis.

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 or sustainable aviation fuels, which are now well established in the industry. 

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

Green hydrogen synthesis is a key innovation area in environmental sustainability

Green hydrogen synthesis essentially involves electrolysis of water. When an electric current is passed through water in an electrolyser system, the molecules are split into hydrogen and oxygen. If the electrical energy consumed during the electrolysis process is derived from renewable energy sources, the produced hydrogen is categorised as green hydrogen.

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 green hydrogen synthesis.

Key players in green hydrogen synthesis – 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’.

Leaders in the patent filing for green hydrogen synthesis include Saudi Aramco, Repsol , TotalEnergies , and Linde.

Saudi Aramco is the leading crude oil producer in the world. It is focusing on hydrogen as an alternate energy source and pursued green hydrogen technology development, announcing several green hydrogen projects, including its ambitious Neom Helios hydrogen project. This is in line with Saudi Arabia’s long-term goal of being a major supplier of green hydrogen.

Repsol has partnered with Spanish gas provider Enagas and other research institutes to develop hydrogen technology. As part of its hydrogen strategy, the company will invest EUR2.5 billion (US$2.9 billion) in the hydrogen value chain by 2030.

TotalEnergies is involved in the H2 Mobility joint venture in Germany, with Air Liquide , Linde, Daimler, Hyundai , OMV , and Shell, to develop hydrogen mobility. In January 2021, the company signed a cooperation agreement with Engie to develop, design, build, and operate the Masshylia green hydrogen project in France.

Linde is an industrial gas and engineering company that supplies industrial, process, and speciality gases. It is a key partner in the Hydrogen Forward coalition, an initiative targeted at boosting hydrogen development in the US. Similarly, Linde has also formed partnerships for green hydrogen development in China as well as Europe. It has announced green hydrogen projects in Europe as well as in North and South America.

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.