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2013-07-03

Giant oil companies competition in Nanopatents

Oil prices are setting new records day by day.Oil companies still tend to invest on new technology to increase their profits. Nanotechnology is a great tool in this way so the companies try to develop the technology and protect their achievements. In this survey, Statnano tries to study nanopatents registered by oil and gas companies.

Oil prices are setting new records day by day.Oil companies still tend to invest on new technology to increase their profits. Nanotechnology is a great tool in this way so the companies try to develop the technology and protect their achievements. In this survey, Statnano tries to study nanopatents registered by oil and gas companies.

Nanotechnology has recently become a prominent area of research. Companies have quickly reacted to the rise of nanotechnology, committing considerable resources to ensure that they benefit from this technology. Oil and gas companies intend to take part in this international effort to establish a position for itself among the benefactors of this technology.

Patents are one of the most important innovation indicators to assess the technological competitiveness of innovation systems (national, regional, or sectoral), as they are one possible output of R&D processes, among others. In innovation studies, they are used to mirror the present technological profile, but also to take a look at the near future as patents are also an established indicator of future economic activities reflected in production, employment, or exports etc. Statnano tries, in this survey, to study nanotechnology related patents granted or registered by oil and gas companies. "Forbes.com" is used as a source to extract the World's biggest oil and gas companies. The website is among the most trusted resources for senior business executives, providing them the real-time reporting, uncompromising commentary, concise analysis, relevant tools and community they need to succeed at work and have fun with the rewards of winning. Patents registered by the companies were extracted via orbit.com using a well-defined search string.

Table 1 gives 30 biggest nanopatent holding companies. The patents published or granted between 2003 to 2013 in USPTO and EP. The table shows origin of companies, the number of all patents, nanopatents and share of nanopatents of all patents registered by the companies. Among these companies, there are 12 American companies and almost 70 % of nanopatents belong to USA.

ExxonMobil and Chevron registered 865 and 503 patents respectively.Among top 5 companies, only ExxonMobil and Chevron have the share of nanopatents more than 10%. Chevron is an early mover in nanotech. The company formed a spin-out called MolecularDiamond Technologies to produce diamondoids. These are nanometer-sized diamond molecules found in petroleum that can be used as nanotech building blocks in energy as well as drug design and electronics.

Halliburton forecasts using nanoscale catalysts to break apart oil products for increased yield.Shell and BP also believe in nanotechnology. They are betting on new technologies like nanocomposites to strengthen drilling tools, and nanocatalysts to increase yield and prop up oil and gas production.

Another fact is the presence of 3 Japanese Companies in the list, while Japan has no oil and gas resources. Japan with 175 nanopatents has key role in the area.


Table 1: Top 30 oil &gas companies according to number of nanopatents (publications and grants)


No.CompanyCountryNanopatentsTotal patentsShare of nanopatents
1ExxonMobilus.pngUSA865595314.53%
2Chevronus.pngUSA503376913.35%
3Schlumbergerus.pngUSA45669816.53%
4Baker Hughesus.pngUSA43559747.28%
5Halliburtonus.pngUSA42356557.48%
6Royal Dutch/Shell Groupnl.pngNetherlands27844416.26%
7BPgb.pngUK22642745.29%
8Totalfr.pngFrance12820996.10%
9ENIit.pngItaly10358117.73%
10ConocoPhillipsus.pngUSA9811648.42%
11Nippon Oiljp.pngJapan839019.21%
12Ashlandus.pngUSA839009.22%
13Nippon Miningjp.pngJapan697848.80%
14China Pet &Chem (Sinopec)cn.pngChina5823724.47%
15Petrobras-PetróleoBrasilbr.pngBrazil4737712.47%
16Smith Internationalus.pngUSA4411493.83%
17Weatherford Intlus.pngUSA4020231.98%
18MOLhu.pngHungary3319516.92%
19Nobleus.pngUSA314626.71%
20Hessus.pngUSA243317.25%
21BJ Servicesgb.pngUK244635.18%
22Saudi Arabian Oilsa.pngSaudi Arabia245414.44%
23Cosmo Oiljp.pngJapan2316214.20%
24Chesapeake Energyus.pngUSA223596.13%
25Neste Oilfi.pngFinland1913913.67%
26Sasolza.pngSouth Africa173994.26%
27RIPIir.pngIran173548.57%
28Statoil Groupno.pngNorway143364.17%
29Repsol-YPFes.pngSpain103033.33%
30Tenarislu.pngLuxemburg101267.94%

One of the main indicators used in current survey is "the share of nanopatents of all registered patents".Table 2 reveals the companies have most shares of nanopatents. The indicator shows the role of nanotechnology in companies' research and developments.

According Statnano, Iran's Research Institute of Petroleum Industry (RIPI)has highest share of nanopatents with 48.57%. However RIPI registered 35 patents, almost half of them are in nanotechnology area.RIPI demonstrated its high capabilities in using nanotechnology in oil industries during last 5 years. The RIPI's nanobased projects and products include carbon nanotubes, lightweight cement slurry, production of iron oxide nanoparticles and hydroconversion process which are at preliminary stages of production. The project related to producing carbon nanotubes is now being implemented at laboratory and semi-industrial scale. RIPI also manufactures nanoparticles of different metal oxides at semi-industrial scale.The lightweight cement slurry is another product of RIPI in which silica nanoparticles and carbon nanoparticles have been used.

Repsol-YPF with 33.33 % is second and China Pet &Chem is third company in the list with 24.47%. Comparing table 1 and 2 shows that ExxonMobil and Chevron have the most registered patents and also high share of nanopatents.


Table 2: Companies with most shares of nanopatents


CompanyCountryNanopatentsTotal patentsShares of nanopatents
RIPIir.pngIran173548.57%
Repsol-YPFes.pngSpain103033.33%
China Pet &Chem (Sinopec)cn.pngChina5823724.47%
ENIit.pngItaly10358117.73%
MOLhu.pngHungary3319516.92%
ExxonMobilus.pngUSA865595314.53%
Bharat Petroleumin.pngIndia21414.29%
Cosmo Oiljp.pngJapan2316214.20%
Indian Oilin.pngIndia85714.04%
Neste Oilfi.pngFinland1913913.67%
Chevronus.pngUSA503376913.35%
Petrobras-PetróleoBrasilbr.pngBrazil4737712.47%

One of the most important points in the Middle East history is oil. Oil was discovered, first in Persia in 1908 and later in Saudi Arabia (in 1938) and the other Persian Gulf states, and also in Libya and Algeria. The Middle East, it turned out, possessed the world's largest easily accessible reserves of crude oil, the most important commodity in the 20th century industrial world. Table 3 gives share of Middle East countries in nanopatents in oil and gas industries.


Table3: Middle East countries and their nanopatents(grant and publication)


No.CountryNanopatentsNanopatents in oil & gas section
1sa.pngSaudi Arabia18999
2ir.pngIran12448
3tr.pngTurkey9430
4jo.pngJordan304
5ae.pngUAE2210
6eg.pngEgypt207
7pk.pngPakistan1611
8kw.pngKuwait138
9lb.pngLebanon73
10az.pngAzerbaijan60
11kz.pngKazakhstan42
12ye.pngYemen22
13iq.pngIraq20
14bh.pngBahrain10
15qa.pngQatar10

Saudi Arabia had registered 189 nanopatents. While the current nanotechnology capability within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is low compared to other countries that have launched nanotechnology initiatives, recently there has been an increase in nanotechnology R&D at both the academic and industrial level within the Kingdom. The kingdom is going to ensure thatnanotechnology researchis focused on improving the local economy. In orderto accomplish this it must be linked to the Kingdom’soverall industrial and economic strategies. The principalindustrial sector that stands to be beneficiaries of a maturenanotechnology research enterprise is oil and gas. By nanotechnology the Kingdom is expected to substantial increases in scientific knowledge, publications, patents and new jobs in the many areas of science and nanotechnology.According to table 3,Saudi Arabia has highest number of nanopatents and Iran and Turkey are second and third in the list. However,Saudi Arabiapublished nano-articles less than Iran and Turkey. So it seems in oil and gas area the kingdom invested on nanotechnology in choosing between nanosciences and nanotechnology. Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkeyare likely to be large regional players in nanotechnology and leading the scientific and higher education revolution in the Middle East. Qatar has no nanopatent in oil and gas. It seems nanotechnology has not been listed in Qatar’s national priorities.However, recently some research areas relevant to Qatar’s national need were announced which nanotechnology was there [1].

1.http://www.qnrf.org/funding_programs/nprp/detailed_priority_lists/

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