Three Pennsylvania-based companies were awarded $20,000 each this month at the sixth annual Shale Gas Innovation Contest in Pittsburgh for liquefied natural gas (LNG), borehole imaging and pipeline sensor technologies.

Exploration and production company Frontier Natural Resources Inc. won for commercializing the first small-scale LNG facility in Pennsylvania that utilizes natural gas from a nearby gathering and compression facility. The company has focused on providing LNG locally, and its second site is under development in the state to utilize stranded natural gas.

Oilfield services company PetroMar Technologies Inc. won for its FracView product, a tool that provides "low-cost" borehole imaging with advanced technology to provide a high resolution acoustic image. Sensor Networks Inc., which offers inspections, testing and other infrastructure monitoring services, won for offering a line of permanently installed battery powered ultrasonic sensors that provide remote, wireless data collection of pipeline wall thickness.

The Ben Franklin Shale Gas Innovation and Commercialization Center (SGICC) selected this year's winners from 10 finalists. Established in 2011 to foster and commercialize early-stage technologies that benefit the environment and the the shale gas industry, the SGICC's contest is considered a cornerstone of its work and has grown significantly since its first year. The center is a member of Ben Franklin Technology Partners, a Pennsylvania-backed, technology-focused economic development program.

In addition to the winners, a fourth technology submitted by the Department of Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory received  the contest's Innovative Research and Development Winner award. Researcher Kelly Rose was recognized by the contest's judges and attendees for developing a "cost-effective and near-real time" early detection system. The technology uses data obtained during drilling to warn of a kick before it reaches the rig floor. The laboratory is seeking partners to continue validating the technology and possibly license it for commercialization.