UH Team Wins Gulf Coast Section 2019 AAPG Imperial Barrel Award Competition

UH Previously Won Gulf Coast Section Competition in 2007 and 2017

A team of five Ph.D. and M.S. graduate students from University of Houston's Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences won first place in the Imperial Barrel Award Program (IBA) of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) Gulf Coast Section competition. The UH team competed on March 17 at the Anadarko building in The Woodlands.

IBA Team 2019
The winning UH team (from left): Jacob Miller (M.S.), Patrick Chandler (M.S.), Aydin Shahtakhtinskiy (Ph.D., Team Captain), Spencer Fuston (Ph.D.), and Andrew Stearns (M.S.). The dataset they presented was the North Carnarvon basin, northwest Australia.

They will advance to a final, global competition held at the Annual AAPG Convention in San Antonio on Saturday, May 18. The global competition includes the all first place teams from the sectional competitions.

The second place award went to The University of Texas at Austin, and the third place award went to Auburn University.

AAPG's IBA Program is an annual prospective basin evaluation competition for geoscience graduate students from universities around the world. University teams compete to win scholarship funds for their geoscience department and the international recognition that comes from participating in or winning the competition. The UH team received a check for $1,500, which will be used in the coming year to support the activities of the AAPG student chapter at EAS: www.uh.edu/nsm/earth-atmospheric/student-organizations/

The UH team consisted of five EAS Ph.D. and M.S. graduate students: Aydin Shahtakhtinskiy (Ph.D.), Spencer Fuston (Ph.D.), Jacob Miller (M.S), Patrick Chandler (M.S.), and Andrew Stearns (M.S.). The team's faculty advisors include Paul Mann, John Castagna, and Kurt Rudolph. Industry advisors include Gary Guthrie (retired from Marathon) and Reynaldo Cardona (Chevron).

In this global competition, university teams analyze a dataset (geology, geophysics, land, production infrastructure and other relevant materials) in the eight weeks prior to their local competition. Each team delivers their results in a 25-minute presentation to a panel of industry experts. The dataset the UH EAS team presented was the Scarborough area of the North Carnarvon basin on the northwest margin of Australia.

Students have the chance to use state-of-the-art technology on a real dataset, receive feedback from an industry panel of six judges, impress potential employers in the audience, and win cash awards for their school. The judges select the winning team on the basis of the technical quality, clarity, and originality of presentation.


The program is rigorous and contributes to AAPG's mission of promoting petroleum geoscience training and advancing the careers of geoscience students. The program currently involves over 500 universities in 76 countries.

The other 10 teams involved in the 2019 Gulf Coast Sectional Competition included: The University of Texas-Austin, Texas A&M University, The University of Texas at San Antonio, Auburn University, Stephen F. Austin State University, Mississippi State University, The University of Alabama, University of Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana State University, and The University of Southern Mississippi.

When the IBA Program began in 2007, UH was one of the first schools to become involved in the new program and won the Gulf Coast Section that year. At that time, only a few schools were involved. Prior to 2012, this was the last time UH placed in the competition.

All teams that place first in their sectional competition will advance to a final, global competition to be held at the Annual AAPG Convention in San Antonio on Saturday, May 18.

History of IBA at EAS Dept (2012-present)

More information on IBA program and photos of other winning sectional teams to compete at the global competition at the AAPG ACE Meeting in San Antonio on May 18, 2019: http://iba.aapg.org/