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Shale Gas: Global and Indian Scenario

28

MAR

2019

Introduction:

Conventional Vs. Unconventional Oil and Gas Resources

It is an undeniable fact that the worldwide reserves of conventional oil and gas have been depleting rapidly. With depleting petroleum reserves and current need for clean fuel, the countries are steady shifting towards unconventional oil and gas resources. For nearly two decades, countries have been striving to build an overlap between conventional and unconventional oil and gas resources to meet the market demand.

The patent filing trend of past decade below shows that the number of patents filed globally and in India for conventional resources has decreased over the years, while the number of patents filed for unconventional resources appears to remain steady. It is also evident from the chart that the research on the unconventional resources, although growing is still at a nascent stage in comparison to the conventional resources. Therefore, there is a huge space available for the research, development, and further commercialization of the unconventional sources.

*The Figures are derived from Derwent Innovation Database

Unconventional Oil and Gas Resources:

Several policies have been developed and introduced by countries worldwide for the development and exploration of unconventional resources, especially after the “shale oil revolution” in the US, which technically initialized and veritably exposed the scope of unconventional resources as the next energy source. Following the footsteps, recently, Government of India also introduced a policy to allow exploration and exploitation of shale gas. The aim and purpose of the policy was to reduce energy imports and thus reduce the energy dependency of India on other countries. In fact, Oil and Natural Gas Corporation of India (ONGC) had estimated (in 2014) that India’s shale gas reserve is in the range of 500 to 2000 trillion cubic meters.

Unconventional oil and gas resources, such as shale gas, oil sands, tight gas, coal bed methane, methane hydrates, and biogenic gas have been known. The following chart illustrates the patent filing distribution between the unconventional resources in the past five years.

*The Figures are derived from Derwent Innovation Database

It is evident from the chart that, of all the unconventional resources, currently a quantum of research has been directed towards the development of shale gas/oil as next energy source. This is attributed to the fact that shale gas deposits are easy to access and economical unconventional energy resource than other resources. The commercial viability of shale oil is clearly evident from a recent report released by ResearchandMarkets, which states that “the global shale gas market is expected to grow at a CAGR of over 13 % from 2018 to 2024”.

The present article focuses on the patent trends associated with the research and development of shale gas, from global and Indian perspective.

Technology Focus – Shale Gas:

Shale gas is essentially defined as the gas trapped in original source rock, which is buried at varying depths below the surface, with high organic matter content formed from the sedimentary deposition in shallow seas.

Over a past decade, cost-effective production of shale gas and further profitable commercialization of the same has grabbed the focus of industry-experts due to advances in extraction and exploitation technologies, such as horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing. A typical shale gas exploration involves three phases:

Shale Gas - Patent Trends:

Filing Trends

The chart below illustrates the patent filing trends of Shale Gas technologies (Global vs. India) from 2008-2018. It appears that the globally, the patent filings had a tremendous increase from the year 2008 to 2014, while the filings decreased from 2015-2018. The patent filing trend for India, appears to increase over the years 2009-2012 and then decreased in years 2013-2014. Further, the patent filings appear to gain a significant spike in the year 2015 and then there is again a dramatic decrease in the filing pattern.

*The Figures are derived from Derwent Innovation Database

The pie “geographical distribution” below shows the filing activity of top geographies over last 10 years. It evident from the pie that China dominates the patent filing activity with a share of over 37%, followed by US with 25 % and then CA and EP with 8 % and 7 %, respectively. It is also evident from the chart that the dynamics of patent filing activity in India is not very competent in comparison to other countries.

*The Figures are derived from Derwent Innovation Database

Publication Trends:

The chart below illustrates the publication trends of Shale Gas technologies (Global vs. India) from 2008-2010. It is evident from the graph that the publication trend on global level seems to increase steadily over the years, while the publication trend in India appears to increase from the year 2011-2016 and then decrease over the past couple of years.

*The Figures are derived from Derwent Innovation Database

Applicant/Assignee: Publication Distribution over past 5 years

The chart shows the percentage distribution of patent published by top 12 assignees over past 5 years (2013-2018). It is evident from the chart that Sinopec has highest number of patent publications over last 5 years, which shows that the company has been actively working on R&D of Shale Oil technologies. Along with Sinopec, Schlumberger, ExxonMobil, and China National Petroleum Corporation are also one of the top applicants. Amongst universities, China University of Petroleum emerged to be most active, followed by Southwest Petroleum University.


*The Figures are derived from Derwent Innovation Database

Filing trends of shale gas exploration technologies:

The chart below illustrated the patent filing activity with respect to the technology, based on IPC classification. It is evident from the chart that the top technologies, which are actively researched upon belong to Operation and Production Stage, especially the technologies relating to drilling of wells. Another group of technologies, that are actively researched on are Refining and Separation technologies, which belong to Separation Stage.

Conclusion

It is apparent from the trends and analysis above that the Shale oil technology can be seen as next generation energy resource. A lot of Fortune-500 companies investing in patenting activity of Shale oil technologies, across the world and in India, shows that the companies have already identified its tremendous potential are working towards further research and development of the same. Not only the bigger player, but some smaller companies such as Red Leaf Resources Inc. and Ren Fuel K2B, where identified to be focused only on the development of Shale Oil technologies.

The major technological development is seen tilted towards the research of technologies in Operation and Production Stage, especially the technologies relating to drilling of wells. Our analysis shows that a lot of patents have been filed in the same area. While, the research is also seen to be driven for Separation technologies, there still appears to remain a whitespace for the development of technologies in Discovery stage to gather initial data of the reservoir.

Therefore, although Shale Oil technologies are still at nascent stage, there indeed is huge opportunity and space for the countries and the company to develop the same and further explore it as the new viable and alternate energy resource.


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