February 28 2017
US patent confirms our proppants’ unique advantages
The month of March marks an exciting point for us with confirmation by the US Patent Office that our proppant technology is unique.
It also demonstrates our leadership and innovation in the lost cost, lightweight, high strength proppants used for hydraulic fracturing in the oil and gas industry.
Our proppants are made from fly-ash, a waste by-product of coal-fired electrical power plants.
When the US Patent Office issues Patent No. 9,587,170 on 7 March, it will signify that there are no competing patents to our technology anywhere in the world.
Our chairman, Siegfried Konig, said: “We are gratified that the Patent Office recognised the novelty and uniqueness of our method of manufacturing a round proppant material primarily composed of fly-ash – an abundant, low cost and widely available by-product of coal fired power stations around the world.”
Our CEO Americas, Dr David Henson, said: “The decision highlights a number of financial, technical and environmental advantages we may offer over ceramic proppants currently on the market.”
Protecting intellectual property in this way is a critical task for a technology company like us – and it isn’t always straightforward. For example, we filed this patent application back in August 2013. As part of the process under the Patent Co-operation Treaty – which covers nearly 150 countries – a search was conducted for what is called “prior art.”
After our patent was published, the patent examiner stated that in its opinion, a number of the inventive steps in our technology were “not novel” and that some of the inventive steps were the subject of prior art.
Prior art is any evidence that your invention is already known. Prior art does not need to exist physically or be commercially available: it’s enough that someone, somewhere, sometime previously has described or shown or made something that contains a use of technology that is very similar to your invention.
The existence of prior art is not a great suggestion when you’re trying to patent something – even if you’re totally confident that your technology is unique. If the patent examiner believes there is prior art, you’ve got to prove it wrong.
Fortunately for us, we have very good patent attorneys. We worked with them to submit a comprehensive rebuttal of the examiner’s opinion and subsequently submitted further information that supported our claims.
You’ve got to be patient in this process but the patience has paid off: the US Patent Office has now advised us in writing that the patent will be issued on March 7, with the entire wording of our initial patent application accepted without any amendment whatsoever.
It is a huge positive for the company to have our patent issued with full verification of our unique technology at a time when the US oil and gas sector is increasing the level of exploration and development drilling – and when we’ve stepped up the marketing of our lower cost proppants.
The long and hard fight with the US Patent Office was worth starting and definitely worth winning. We’ll continue to build on and strengthen our intellectual property portfolio and look forward to working with our partners to bring low-cost, lightweight and high-strength proppants to the market.