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UNCONVENTIONAL OIL 2017/ key indicators

Recent Inventions / Brief Overview

The proposed review includes brief statistical information on the 2017 patent applications, which describe various technical solutions in the field of Unconventional Oil production (oil shale, oil sands, and heavy oil). In total, 1627 patent documents were collected for review, published in 32 patent offices around the world by 466 applicants from 36 countries. In this year the number of patent applications found on this subject was noticeably smaller compared to the previous year – by approximately 22%.

The majority of patent applications were registered in patent offices of the leading petroleum-producing countries having substantial unconventional oil reserves – the USA, China, Brazil and Canada. Compared to the previous year, despite the reduction in overall number of patent applications found, the number of documents filed in the Brazilian patent office has grown considerably (proportional growth by almost 4.5% and by 50 documents). In the current year Russian Rospatent, which represents the interests of another large oil-producing country, has entered the list for the top 10 offices.

Distribution of patent applications, published by the top 10 patent offices

Patent officeNumber of documentsShare of total, %
Canadian Intellectual Property Office18611.4
State Intellectual Property Office, China22413.8
European Patent Office1207.4
Mexican Institute of Industrial Property311.9
National Institute of Industrial Property, Brazil20412.5
IP Australia573.5
Industrial Property Office, Japan291.8
Federal Service for Intellectual Property, Russia623.8
United States Patent and Trademark Office34621.3
World Intellectual Property Organization17510.8

Source: Advanced Energy Technologies

More than 50% of all patent applications were represented by applicants residing in the USA. Canada and China also got to the top three countries by the number of applicants, but with a noticeably smaller representation. In total, residents of these countries participated in almost 75% of patent documents. In general, the proportions were similar the previous year; however, the representation of China residents has grown – by 64 applications or by almost 5%. Compared to the previous year Belgium and Switzerland entered the top 10 countries by the largest number of resident applicants.

Distribution of countries of the world by the number of resident applicants in patent applications

Source: Advanced Energy Technologies

100% participation of non-resident applicants was recorded in the Brazilian, Australian, Mexican and Norwegian patent offices. The richest geographical diversity of applicants is seen in the USPTO – representatives from 21 countries filed their applications there. A considerable number of non-residents from different countries were also patenting in Brazil (represented by 17 countries), Canada (16) and China (12).

In 1316 patent applications the applicants proposed technological methods, in 841 applications – various devices and in 482 documents – different substances and compositions; a large number of applications simultaneously contain several technical solution types. The inventors' interests were roughlyequally focused on such directions as Oil sands and heavy oil, with considerably less focus on Oil Shale. In about a third part of the patent applications it was impossible to define exactly the technological belonging, as the technical solutions provided there were of a general nature.

In the majority of their patent applications the inventors were looking for a solution to the "Low efficiency of primary production" problem – more than 700 mentions. Such problems as "Environmental balance and protection", "Energy, gas or water consumption", "High capital or running costs in general", "High running costs of repair and replacement", "High capital costs of exploration and infrastructure" were also mentioned fairly frequently. Similar proportions of problems could also be seen in patents applications published in the previous year.

Distribution of technical problems in the patent applications found

Source: Advanced Energy Technologies

LEPP - Low efficiency of primary production; LESP - Low efficiency of secondary processing; EXP - Exploration problems; LPE - Low production efficiency in general; HCEI - High capital costs of exploration and infrastructure; HCCP - High capital costs of component production; HCRR - High running costs of repair and replacement; HRCM - High running costs of maintenance; HCG - High capital or running costs in general; EGWC - Energy, gas or water consumption; EBP - Environmental balance and protection; AOP - Administrative and organizational problems; UP - Unclear problem

The following groups of the WIPO's International Patent Classification were the most popular in the bibliographic data of patent applications: E21B43/00 – Methods or apparatus for obtaining oil, gas, water, soluble or meltable materials or a slurry of minerals from wells; and C09K8/00 – Compositions for drilling of boreholes or wells; Compositions for treating boreholes or wells, e.g. for completion or for remedial operations.

Among the major technological processes, Steam injection was the unconditional leader by the number of mentions in the texts of patent applications. To a considerably lesser degree, but still pretty often, the inventors considered such technology processes as Chemical stimulation; Drilling and well elements; Gas injection or water flooding; Reservoir permeability improvement and extraction; Treatment and refinement; Underground reservoir exploration; Directional drilling or hydraulic fracturing. In some cases it was challenging to identify exactly the technology processes in the patent applications, or their attributes weren't specific enough – Undefined activation method and Uncommon thermal recovery. Waste processing issues adopted a high profile in the patent applications.

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 Advanced Energy Technologies.