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The shipping industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by increasing global trade and commerce and the need for efficient, cost-effective, and environmentally sustainable sea transportation solutions, as well as growing importance of technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial and augmented intelligence, advanced vessel operation monitoring systems, and hydrogen fuel cells. In the last three years alone, there have been over 67,000 patents filed and granted in the shipping industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Environmental sustainability in Ship: Boil-off gas reliquefaction. Buy the report here.

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According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which uses over 25,000 patents to analyse innovation intensity for the ship industry, there are 30+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Boil-off gas reliquefaction is a key innovation area in environmental sustainability

Although liquefied natural gas (LNG) cargo tanks are insulated, a small amount of the cryogenic LNG naturally evaporates generating boil-off gas due to heat flow from the ambient air. The generated BOG must be removed to preserve the cargo tank pressure. Boil-off gas reliquefaction is an onboard reliquefaction process to recover and compress the boil-off gas and return it to the cargo tank in the form of cryogenic liquid.

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 10+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established shipping companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of boil-off gas reliquefaction.

Key players in boil-off gas reliquefaction – a disruptive innovation in the shipping industry

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

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

Patent volumes related to boil-off gas reliquefaction

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Korea Development Bank 482 Unlock Company Profile
Hyundai Heavy Industries Holdings 386 Unlock Company Profile
Samsung Heavy Industries 210 Unlock Company Profile
Kawasaki Heavy Industries 57 Unlock Company Profile
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries 46 Unlock Company Profile
Linde 17 Unlock Company Profile
Wartsila 16 Unlock Company Profile
Single Buoy Moorings 15 Unlock Company Profile
Kobe Steel 12 Unlock Company Profile
Mitsui E&S Holdings 12 Unlock Company Profile
Exxon Mobil 9 Unlock Company Profile
AFC Mercury 8 Unlock Company Profile
DongHwa Entec 6 Unlock Company Profile
Shell 6 Unlock Company Profile
N&K 5 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME), a company based in South Korea, is the leading patent filer in the boil-off gas reliquefaction space, followed by Wartsila and Samsung Heavy Industries.

DSME filed patents related to systems, methods, and equipment such as compound compressor and boil-off gas heat exchanger for processing and treating the boil-off gas onboard. The company also filed patents related to systems and methods of supplying the boil-off gas as a fuel for the ship propulsion engine.

In January 2023, DSME contracted TMC Compressors (TMC) to provide Smart Air® compressors for the four 174,000m3 LNG vessels with full reliquefaction system that the South Korean shipbuilder is constructing for Singapore-based BW LNG. Scheduled for delivery between 2023 and 2025, the LNG carriers will also feature MAN Energy Solutions' ME-GI flexible dual-fuel propulsion engines, air lubrification system and shaft generators to improve energy efficiency and reduce emissions.

In terms of application diversity, Kobe Steel leads the pack, followed by Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Linde. By geographic reach, Single Buoy Moorings is the leading company, followed by Exxon Mobil and Linde.

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the shipping industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Shipping.

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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.