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Cellulosic ethanol 2016 / key indicators

Recent Inventions / Brief Overview

In total, we have collected 261 patent applications that were published in 2016 in the field of cellulosic ethanol production technologies. Among these documents the largest number were filed in the United States Patent and Trademark Office – 35%. A considerable number of patent applications were also filed in the World Intellectual Property Organisation (12%); the National Institute of Industrial Property of Brazil (10%); the European Patent Office (10%); and the State Intellectual Property Office of China (7%). Thus, it can be concluded that the US documents comprise more than a third of the collected patent applications in the field of interest, which is slightly more than respective results in 2015, when this number achieved about 28%. The shares of the documents published in Brazilian and Chinese patent offices are also similar to those in the previous year. Data for the top 10 patent offices is provided in the table below. 

Global ethanol production in 2016 comprised about 120 billion litres, which exceeded the results for 2015, thus continuing the trends of the development of the industry. However, cellulosic ethanol production comprises only a portion of the total capacities of the industry. The present review provides information on the patent applications in the field of cellulosic ethanol production, which makes it possible to evaluate the trends in the evolution of technical solutions in this field.

Distribution of documents by patent offices

Patent officeNumber of documentsShare of total, %
United States Patent and Trademark Office9235.2
World Intellectual Property Organization3111.9
National Institute of Industrial Property, Brazil2710.3
European Patent Office259.6
State Intellectual Property Office, China197.3
Israel Patent Office93.4
Japan Patent Office93.4
Korean Intellectual Property Office, South Korea93.4
Canadian Intellectual Property Office83.1
Intellectual Property Australia83.1
All other offices249.2

In total nearly 60% of the patent applications were filed by the applicants outside their countries of residence. The USA and Brazil took leading positions in terms of the number of documents filed by non-residents: 46 and 26 documents, respectively, followed by the European and Chinese patent offices.
The majority of technical solutions are composed in the form of novel methods – 216 documents. Use of substances, materials and their compositions are described in 179 documents (69%). Novel device constructions are proposed in only 19 documents (7%). 140 patent applications describe technical solutions that combine new methods and compositions (54%). 92% of patent applications are members of existing patent families, and only 8% are new applications that don't have other documents in patent families.

IPC class C12P is the most widely spread among all the patent applications examined. It represents fermentation processes for synthesis of chemical compounds, or their separation.

Problems that the examined patent applications aimed to solve, to a greater or lesser extent, are distributed among the documents in the following manner:

LEVF - Low efficiency / Variety of feedstock; LEMP - Low efficiency of main processes; LEPT - Low efficiency of product treatment; LEG - Low efficiency in general; HCD - High CAPEX / Development; HCE - High CAPEX / Equipment; HOP - High OPEX / Poor performance; HOU - High OPEX / Utilization; HCG - High costs in general; ESI - Environmental and social impact; AOP - Administrative and organisational problems; UP - Unclear problem

The majority of documents (160) is related to the technologies of preliminary processing of feedstock. A considerable number of documents also describe the main production processes of cellulosic ethanol – technologies and equipment for the production and fermentation of glucose (147), as well as substances and compositions for respective reactions (135). Other elements of the technological chain are encountered less frequently.

The most widespread problem that the patent documents in the present collection are to some extent aiming to solve is the low efficiency of main processes in cellulosic ethanol production. 161 documents are dedicated to this issue, which is 38% of the total number of problems mentioned in the collection of documents, or 61% of all documents. A considerable number of documents also relate to high costs of technologies in general; low efficiency caused by the diversity or non-uniformity of feedstock; high operational costs of residue utilization, as well as environmental and social impact.

More detailed information on the methodology as well as on the results of patent researches in the most important fields of contemporary energy industry can be found at