UH Team Wins World Finals of AAPG Imperial Barrel Award

Eleven Teams Participated in Global Competition

A team of five Ph.D. and M.S. students from the University of Houston’s Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences won the World Finals of the 2019 American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) Imperial Barrel Award (IBA) Competition.

IBA Winners
The winning UH team (from left): Andrew Stearns (M.S.), Spencer Fuston (Ph.D.), Aydin Shahtakhtinskiy (Ph.D., Team Captain), Jacob Miller (M.S.), Patrick Chandler (M.S.), and one of the team's faculty advisors, Paul Mann.

UH team members included Aydin Shahtakhtinskiy (Ph.D., Team Captain), Jacob Miller (M.S.), Patrick Chandler (M.S.), Spencer Fuston (Ph.D.), and Andrew Stearns (M.S.). The team received the IBA trophy and a check for $20,000 to support the activities of the EAS department and the AAPG “Wildcatters” student chapter.

The team’s faculty advisors were Paul Mann, John Castagna and Kurt Rudolph. Industry advisors were Gary Guthrie (Marathon Oil, retired) and Reynaldo Cardona (Chevron).

The competition took place May 18 in conjunction with the AAPG Annual Convention in San Antonio.

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 competing in or winning the competition. In the last 14 years, 5,408 students from 518 universities in 76 countries have participated.

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 regional competition. Each team delivers their results in a 25-minute presentation to a panel of expert judges.

The dataset the UH EAS team presented was the offshore area of northwestern Australia, one of the world’s premier, natural gas provinces.

IBA student teams have the chance to use state-of-the-art technology on a real dataset, receive feedback from an industry panel, impress potential employers in the audience, and win cash awards for their school. A six-person judging panel of professional petroleum geoscientists selected the winning team based on the technical quality, clarity and originality of presentation.

The other teams participating in the finals were winners of the six international regionals outside of the U.S. and the six, U.S.-based AAPG sections.

The second place IBA finals award (Selley Cup) went to LaSalle University in Paris, France, representing the AAPG Europe Region, and the third place award (Stoneley Medal) went to University of Oklahoma, representing the U.S. Mid-Continent Section.

Remaining sections competing in the finals were the Latin America and Caribbean Region (Universidad Industrial de Santander, Colombia), Middle East Region (Sultan Qaboos University, Oman), Africa Region (Ain Shams University, Cairo, Egypt), Combined Canada Region and Pacific Section (San Diego State University), Rocky Mountain Section (Colorado School of Mines), Southwest Section (Texas Tech University), and Eastern Section (University of Georgia).

To advance to the World Finals, the UH team won the AAPG Gulf Coast Section competition hosted by Anadarko Corporation in The Woodlands, Texas on March 17. The UH team competed with 10 other teams from Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. (Related Story)

The AAPG is one of the world’s largest geologic societies with more than 38,000 members in over 100 countries; more than 6,000 geoscientists attended the convention. Started by AAPG in 2006, the IBA program currently involves 455 universities in 61 countries.

Financial support to cover the costs of travel and other program expenses is about $500,000 per year and makes the IBA program the single, costliest program within AAPG. Major corporate donors who contributed $50,000 or more to the AAPG IBA program in 2019 include Chevron, Saudi Aramco, Shell, Elsevier, Saudi Aramco, and the AAPG Foundation.

Since 2006, 11 universities that have won the Imperial Barrel Award World Finals. Previous winners:

University of Aberdeen (2006)
University of Oklahoma (2007)
Imperial College London (2008)
Moscow State University (2009)
Institut Francais du Petrole (2010)
University of Texas at Austin (2011)
University of Louisiana at Lafayette (2012)
University of Utah (2013)
University of Louisiana at Lafayette (2014)
Royal Holloway University (2015)
University of Texas at El Paso (2016)
University of Houston (2017)
University of Louisiana at Lafayette (2018)

Since 2006, only two of the 11 universities have won the competition more than once: University of Louisiana at Lafayette (2012, 2014, 2018) and the University of Houston (2017, 2019).

History of UH in the IBA Competition (2012 to Present)

More information on IBA Program and photos of three top teams in 2019 World Finals be found at: https://iba.aapg.org/