UH Team Places Second in 2021 Gulf Coast Section of AAPG Imperial Barrel Award Competition

Competition Held as Virtual Microsoft Teams Conference

Under the leadership of team captain Bryan Moore, 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 EAS graduate students in geology, Moore (M.S.), Rachel Ronquille (M.S), Michael Martinez (M.S.), Nikola Bjelica (M.S.), and Daniella Gutierrez Easley (Ph.D. student, geochemistry).

The UH Imperial Barrel Award Team (from left): Rachel Ronquille (M.S. Student, Geology), Michael Martinez (M.S. Student, Geology), Nikola Bjelica (M.S. Student, Geology), Bryan Moore (Team Captain, M.S. Student, Geology), and Daniella Gutierrez Easley (Ph.D. Student, Geochemistry).

The Gulf Coast Section competition, held on April 16, involved five 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 conference on Microsoft Teams.

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 from companies in the greater Houston area. The AAPG IBA Gulf Coast Committee who successfully organized the competition included: Erin McLain (Marathon) and Jim Ferry (Oxy).

The EAS team’s faculty advisors included Drs. Paul Mann and John Castagna and the team's industry advisors were Gary Guthrie (Marathon - retired) and Steve Walkinshaw (Vision Exploration). 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 over 200 universities from 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.

Three of the participating teams were from universities in Texas – Stephen F. Austin State University, Texas A&M University, and the University of Houston. Teams outside of Texas include the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and the University of Alabama.

The criteria that the judges used for selecting the winners included in ranked order: 1) enthusiasm and passion of the presentation; 2) linkage of the proposed plays back to the regional and tectonic setting; 3) clarity of the presentation and the depth of understanding of the material presented; and 4) creativity exhibited in the team’s selection of their petroleum plays and play elements.

Winners of the Competition

  • First Place: University of Louisiana at Lafayette (Study Area: Faroe-Shetland basin, NW Europe)
  • Second Place: University of Houston (Study Area: Faroe-Shetland basin, NW Europe)
  • Third Place: Stephen F. Austin State University (Study Area: Faroe-Shetland basin, NW Europe)

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 virtual event is scheduled to take place on May 21, 2021. Winners will be announced May 22. The 12 finalists from the AAPG sections worldwide will also be recognized at the APPG Annual Convention and Exhibition, September 26-October 1, in Denver.

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 eight out of the 10 years – that includes two IBA World Championships in 2017 and 2019.

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, 2020) and the University of Houston (2017, 2019).

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

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

More information on IBA Program and a listing of the top 12 teams participating who will participate in the virtual World Finals will be posted at: https://iba.aapg.org/