UH Team Places Second in 2020 Gulf Coast Section of AAPG’s Imperial Barrel Award Competition

Competition Held as Virtual Skype Conference

Under the leadership of team captain Maddie Bishop, the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences’ Imperial Barrel Award (IBA) team placed second at the annual American Association of Petroleum Geologists IBA Competition for the Gulf Coast Section. The five-member team consisted of graduate students in geology and geophysics, including Bishop (M.S.), Mei Liu (Ph.D.), Michael Fonseca (M.S.), Ben Miller (M.S.) and senior undergraduate student Brook Runyon.

IBA Team
The UH Imperial Barrel Award Team from left to right: Michael Fonseca (M.S. student, geology); Brook Runyon (B.S. student, geology), Maddie Bishop (team captain, M.S. student, geology), Mei Liu (Ph.D. student, geology), and Benjamin Miller (M.S. student, geophysics).

The Gulf Coast Section competition, held on April 3, involved nine teams from the AAPG Gulf Coast region that included the states of Texas, Louisiana and Alabama. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Gulf Coast competition, along with all the regional competitions worldwide, was held with the judging panel as a virtual Skype conference.

Each university team analyzed a dataset in the eight weeks prior to the competition and delivered their results in a 25-minute presentation to a panel of industry experts. The AAPG IBA Gulf Coast Committee who successfully organized the competition included: Jim Ferry (Oxy), Mitch Blakeley (Oxy), Erin McLain (Marathon), Dave Martens (Marathon), and Tom Bulling (Marathon).

The EAS team’s faculty advisors included Drs. Paul Mann, John Castagna and Jon Rotzien, and the team's industry advisors were Gary Guthrie (Roxanna Oil) and Judy Schulenberg (independent). The team will receive a check for $2,000 that will be presented to the UH AAPG student group, the Wildcatters.

The Imperial Barrel Award 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 or winning. The program is rigorous and contributes to AAPG's mission of promoting petroleum geoscience training and advancing the careers of geoscience students.

Teams competing in the Gulf Coast Section event came from universities spanning three states bordering the Gulf of Mexico and forming the Gulf Section of the AAPG.

Five of the participating teams were from universities in Texas – University of Texas - San Antonio, Texas A&M University, Stephen F. Austin State University, Rice University and the University of Houston. Two of the teams were from Louisiana - Louisiana State University and University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Two of the teams were from Alabama (Auburn University and University of Alabama).

Winners of the Competition

  • First Place: University of Louisiana at Lafayette (Study Area: Gulf of Mexico offshore, USA)
  • Second Place: University of Houston (Study Area: Ayoluengo area, onshore Basque-Cantabrian basin, northern Spain)
  • Third Place: Auburn University (Study Area: Scarborough area, Carnarvon basin, offshore northwestern Australia)

The University of Louisiana at Lafayette will advance to the IBA World Competition where they will compete with winners from the other regional competitions worldwide. The event is scheduled to take place at the AAPG Annual Convention and Exhibition in Houston, June 7-10, 2020.

Since 2012, the UH IBA team has maintained the longest record of consistency in the Gulf Coast Section by placing in the top three places of the competition in seven out of the nine years – that includes two IBA World Championships.

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

Names of team member and photos of all the UH teams since 2012 are shown at the links below.

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/