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Patents: more focus on "clean" conventional energy than renewables

A new study by IFI CLAIMS Patent Services 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.

The analysis covered patents in two particular 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 from sixth place in 2021 to third place in the "Top 10 Fastest Growing Technologies of 2022" :

  1. Autonomous Vehicles

  2. Electric Digital Data Processing

  3. Special Features Related to Earth Drilling for Obtaining Oil, Gas, or Water

  4. Computing Arrangements Based on Biological Models

  5. Electrical Smoking Devices

  6. Quantum Computers

  7. Cigarettes

  8. 3D Culture

  9. Machine Learning

  10. Breathing Masks

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

  1. Wind energy: Vestas Wind Systems AS (988 patent applications)

  2. Geothermal: Ice thermal Harvesting LLC (27 patent applications)

  3. Green hydrogen: Toshiba Corp (104 patent applications)

  4. Photovoltaic (solar): Samsung Display Co Ltd (2,369 patent applications)

And top three companies investing in earth drilling technology over the past five years are:

  1. Halliburton Energy Services Inc (7,153 patent applications)

  2. Saudi Arabian Oil Co (3,423 patent applications)

  3. Schlumberger Technology Corp (2,854 patent applications)

We quote: "... purely renewable energy isn’t getting the kind of money it needs for the widespread adoption necessary to get us to “net zero.” That the lion’s share of “green” patents are focused on modifying negative effects of fossil fuels. That fossil fuels will be part of the energy picture for decades to come. After all, why else would energy companies continue to invent and seek a couple decades of patent protection for extracting fuel from the earth?".

Click at the image below to navigate IFI CLAIMS Patent Services findings . And here for a Digital Science article .


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“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”

“I am among those who think that science has great beauty”

Madame Marie Curie (1867 - 1934) Chemist & physicist. French, born Polish.

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