‘Green’ energy patents more focused on ‘clean’ conventional energy instead of renewables

Digital Science

A new study by world leaders in patent data has revealed some unusual trends in energy tech R&D, questioning whether companies are more committed to extracting fossil fuels or in pursuing genuinely ‘green’, renewable energy technologies.

IFI CLAIMS Patent Services – a Digital Science company dedicated to providing the world’s most trusted patent data for research, innovation and technology – says data on both patent applications and patents awarded in recent years offers telling insights into the innovations being pursued by industry, and whether they’re really committed to achieving ‘Net Zero’.

IFI has today released its report after studying patent trends in two key classifications:

  • E21B (earth drilling for obtaining oil, gas, water, soluble or meltable materials or a slurry of minerals from wells)
  • Y02E (reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, related to energy generation, transmission or distribution).

IFI has found that drilling technology has risen to third place in the Top 10 Fastest Growing Technologies of 2022, up from sixth place in 2021.

CEO of IFI CLAIMS Patent Services Mike Baycroft says that at a company R&D level, “purely renewable energy doesn’t appear to be getting the kind of money it needs for the widespread adoption necessary to get the world to ‘Net Zero'”.

“Energy companies continue to invest in R&D and seek decades of patent protection for extracting fuel from the earth. According to our analysis, the lion’s share of ‘green’ patents are focused on modifying the negative effects of conventional energy sources, such as fossil fuels – to make those sources of energy ‘cleaner’ – rather than renewables receiving R&D investment. This suggests fossil fuels will be part of the energy picture for decades to come,” he says.

Mr Baycroft adds: “When separated out from other ‘green’ patent data, the patents relating purely to renewable energy technology have dropped significantly below those for earth drilling technology.

“This occurs in both patent applications – where earth drilling applications outpaced renewable energy applications in 2022 – and in patents awarded, where earth drilling technology has been outperforming renewables since 2018.”

To compare, according to IFI CLAIMS data, the number of patents awarded to the top three companies for earth drilling technology far outstrips the number for top companies investing in renewable energy technology:

Top three companies investing in earth drilling technology over the past five years:

  • Halliburton Energy Services Inc (7,153 patent applications)
  • Saudi Arabian Oil Co (3,423 patent applications)
  • Schlumberger Technology Corp (2,854 patent applications)

Top companies investing in renewable energy technology over the past five years (by field):

  • Wind energy: Vestas Wind Systems AS (988 patent applications)
  • Geothermal: Ice thermal Harvesting LLC (27 patent applications)
  • Green hydrogen: Toshiba Corp (104 patent applications)
  • Photovoltaic (solar): Samsung Display Co Ltd (2,369 patent applications)

The full briefing report on renewables versus earth drilling technologies can be found on the IFI CLAIMS website: https://www.ificlaims.com/news/view/briefing-2022-energy-sourcing.htm

Renewables and earth drilling technology patents are just two examples of insights provided by IFI CLAIMS and its partners. For other sector analysis, visit the IFI CLAIMS Live 1000, a free tool that uses data from the CLAIMS Direct platform to rank the top 1000 companies and assignees by country or jurisdiction.

About IFI CLAIMS Patent Services

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