The oil and gas industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by the need for improved safety and productivity and risk mitigation, and growing importance of technologies such as AI, IoT, and digital twins. 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 Innovation in Oil & Gas: Oil well fracking.

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 and 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, drilling simulation and modelling, carbonated water injection (CWI) for oil recovery, and automated compressed gas filling are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Liquified gas shipping vessels and oil well fracking are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are compressed bio-fuel shipping vessels and cryogenic natural gas liquefaction, which are now well established in the industry. 

Innovation S-curve for the oil and gas industry

Oil well fracking is a key innovation area in oil and gas

Hydraulic fracturing, also referred to as fracking, is a process of fracturing deep underground sedimentary formations by using pressurised liquids for extracting oil and natural gas.

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 oil well fracking.

Key players in oil well fracking – 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’.

Halliburton is one of the leading patent filers on hydraulic fracking, equipment and services. It recently deployed its SmartFleet intelligent fracturing system for a major operator in the Permian Basin. The company, along with VoltaGrid , also deployed an advanced electric fracturing solution for Chesapeake Energy in the Marcellus Shale. It also launched Expressfiber, a fibre optic cable product that provides real-time actionable insights into fracture growth and well interference.

Weatherford is another leading patent filer, catering to the fracking market with its automated technologies to ensure effectiveness in hydraulic fracturing operations.

Fracking has revolutionised the US energy landscape and helped the country to become one of the top oil and gas producers in the world. The ability to scale at lower costs and with greater recoverable resources per well is a key element for the fracking industry.

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.