The oil and gas industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by an increasing need for long-term sustainability, reducing its carbon footprint, and transitioning towards low-emission fuels. Technological advances and growing research in the field of alternative fuels are helping to achieve these objectives. This is characterised by the growing importance of technologies, such as low-carbon hydrogen, renewable fuels, 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 Innovation in Oil & Gas: Syngas production processes.

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

Syngas production processes is a key innovation area in oil and gas

Syngas or synthetic gas is a mixture of various gases, especially carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, methane and hydrogen. It is typically produced from natural gas by a catalytic process. It is also produced from pyrolysis of biomass. Syngas has over half of the energy density of natural gas. It cannot be burnt directly but can be used as a feedstock for producing fuels. It can also be used as an intermediate product to produce other chemicals.

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 10+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established oil & gas companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of syngas production processes.

Key players in syngas production processes – 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’.

Casale , Haldor Topsoe , and Johnson Matthey are some of the leading filers of patents linked to syngas production. Casale offers a diverse portfolio of technologies related to syngas production. These are based on partial oxidation and autothermal reforming.

Haldor Topsoe offers a variety of technologies for producing syngas from different types of feedstock, such as coke, coal, waste, and biomaterial with a high degree of carbon efficiency.

Johnson Matthey ’s syngas production technologies are aimed at cutting down carbon emissions by over 95%.

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.