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Imperial Barrel Award RecipientsTHE ULTIMATE HOME TEAM VICTORY

A Team of UH Graduate Students Sweeps the Imperial Barrel Award Program Competition

05/04/2017 | By Claire Andersen

A team of five University of Houston graduate students brought home first prize from the international finals of the 2017 American Association of Petroleum Geologist’s (AAPG) Imperial Barrel Award Program (IBA) Competition.  

The team was made up of two Ph.D. students, Eric Lunn and Delaney Robinson, and three M.S. students, Walter Reed, Leiser Silva and Andrew Steier. Their efforts resulted in over $20,000 in scholarships for the UH Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences.            

IBA is an annual competition hosted by AAPG for geoscience graduate students from around the world. Each team presented their evaluation and analysis of a data set before a panel of experts. This year, the UH team evaluated seismic and well data from the Taranaki basin in New Zealand. 

After winning the Gulf Coast section in March, the team moved on to the international final, where they competed against 11 other teams from across the world. Between the Gulf Coast regional competition and the international competition, the UH team beat out several prestigious schools including the University of Texas, Texas A&M and Colorado School of Mines. This year’s finals were held in Houston and marked the 100th anniversary of AAPG.  

“It reflects very well on UH and on us to be the No. 1 team out of the 191 across the world,” said Lunn.  

For the first time in the competition’s history, the panel of six judges unanimously awarded UH first place. Teams were judged not only on their data evaluation and presentation style, but also their team work.  

“We all had specialties that were pretty clear at the beginning. But as we got to the last couple weeks, everyone tried to step in and cover whatever bases we needed so those specialties kind of got fuzzier,” said Steier.  

The group analyzed their dataset for eight weeks, during which time they also balanced classwork and, for Robinson, a Ph.D. qualification exam and dissertation research proposal. 

“It was pretty intense, this experience,” said Silva. “There was a huge learning curve in the beginning because none of us had done this before. It’s a lot of hard work.” 

Beyond the scholarship and notoriety of the victory, the team also met Judith Collins, New Zealand’s Minister of Energy and Resources. Collins provided the group with a set of seismic and well data from New Zealand for use in future UH research projects.