The oil & gas industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity is driven by the growing need for cost-effective and safe drilling operations, and the growing importance of technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), 3D printing, and big data. In the last three years alone, there have been over 523,000 patents filed and granted in the oil & gas industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Innovation in oil & gas: automated drilling tools. Buy the report here.

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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 stabilizing 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.

60+ 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 196,000 patents, there are 60+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Within the emerging innovation stage, high-pressure gas vessels, boil-off gas treatment, and oil recovery CWI are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Green hydrogen synthesis, hydrocarbon lubricants, and oil well surveillance are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are cryogenic gas separation and olefin metathesis catalysts, which are now well established in the industry.

Innovation S-curve for the oil & gas industry

Automated drilling tools is a key innovation area in oil & gas

Automated drilling tools refer to the use of advanced technology to automate the drilling process, ultimately improving drilling efficiency and accuracy, reducing human error, and improving safety.

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 70+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established oil & gas companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of automated drilling tools.

Key players in automated drilling tools – a disruptive innovation in the oil & gas industry

‘Application diversity’ measures the number of applications identified for each patent. It broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators.  

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of countries each patent is registered in. It reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’. 

Patent volumes related to automated drilling tools

Company Total patents (2021 - 2023) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Halliburton 696 Unlock Company Profile
Schlumberger 385 Unlock Company Profile
Baker Hughes 138 Unlock Company Profile
Shell 94 Unlock Company Profile
Weatherford International 84 Unlock Company Profile
Helmerich & Payne 75 Unlock Company Profile
Saudi Arabian Oil 60 Unlock Company Profile
Akastor 59 Unlock Company Profile
NOV 48 Unlock Company Profile
Nabors Industries 48 Unlock Company Profile
Epiroc 35 Unlock Company Profile
Sandvik 34 Unlock Company Profile
Atlas Copco 25 Unlock Company Profile
Rio Tinto 20 Unlock Company Profile
Merlin Technology 18 Unlock Company Profile
ConocoPhillips 16 Unlock Company Profile
Tesco 16 Unlock Company Profile
Prad Research And Development 15 Unlock Company Profile
BP 14 Unlock Company Profile
Exxon Mobil 14 Unlock Company Profile
Marathon Oil 13 Unlock Company Profile
Equinor 12 Unlock Company Profile
Baker Hughes 11 Unlock Company Profile
Luossavaara-Kiirunavaara 11 Unlock Company Profile
Pason Systems 11 Unlock Company Profile
Caterpillar 11 Unlock Company Profile
Bauer 10 Unlock Company Profile
Ensign Energy Services 10 Unlock Company Profile
ITI Scotland 10 Unlock Company Profile
Vermeer 9 Unlock Company Profile
APS Technology 8 Unlock Company Profile
AI Driller 7 Unlock Company Profile
Evolution Engineering 7 Unlock Company Profile
General Electric 6 Unlock Company Profile
Tian Di Science & Technology 6 Unlock Company Profile
BAUER Spezialtiefbau 6 Unlock Company Profile
Komatsu 5 Unlock Company Profile
XCMG Construction Machinery 5 Unlock Company Profile
Wwt North America 4 Unlock Company Profile
Harnischfeger Technologies 4 Unlock Company Profile
Ensign Drilling Partnership 4 Unlock Company Profile
Universal Technical Institute 4 Unlock Company Profile
China Railway Group 4 Unlock Company Profile
Wellbore Integrity Solutions 3 Unlock Company Profile
China Petrochemical 3 Unlock Company Profile
Vermeer Manufacturing 3 Unlock Company Profile
S.J.S Enterprises 3 Unlock Company Profile
M-I 3 Unlock Company Profile
Husqvarna 3 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Halliburton is one of the leading patent filers in automated drilling tools. It uses advanced automation solutions such as LOGIX® Autonomous Drilling Platform, iStar® Intelligent Drilling and Logging Platform, iCruise X™ Intelligent Rotary Steerable System and iCruise® Intelligent Rotary Steerable System for increasing performance and efficiency and reducing operational costs and risks. Some other key patent filers in the space include Schlumberger and Baker Hughes.

In terms of application diversity, Komatsu leads the pack, while Harnischfeger Technologies and Luossavaara-Kiirunavaara stood in the second and third positions, respectively. By means of geographic reach, Weatherford International held the top positions, followed by Rio Tinto and Shell.

The advances in drilling tools automation continue to gain momentum as more and more companies are embracing automation to optimize their drilling performance and maximize production.

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the oil & gas industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Oil & Gas.

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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.