Team registrations are now being accepted for this year’s AAPG-AAPG Foundation’s Imperial Barrel Award program (IBA), an annual prospective basin evaluation competition for geoscience graduate students from universities around the world.
A record number of teams are expected for the next IBA, which celebrates its ninth season in 2015.
The application deadline is Dec. 12.
The IBA initiative, now an international competition in which students examine geological and geophysical datasets to determine hydrocarbon potential, started, modestly enough, in a classroom in the United Kingdom.
AAPG member David Cook, serving again this year with Charles “Chuck” Caughey as the IBA program co-chairs, is justifiably proud of both the organization and the competition.
“The AAPG/AAPG Foundation Imperial Barrel Award competition is arguably the biggest and best petroleum exploration program for students,” he said.
The program is rigorous – students often talk of weeks and months of preparation, including eighteen hour days, sleepless nights, weight gain and cold pizza – and contributes to AAPG’s mission of promoting petroleum geoscience training and advancing the careers of geoscience students.
And that last part, while paramount, is not its only mission – but more on that in a moment.
The IBA began as a course in the petroleum geology department at Imperial College, London, England, as a way to challenge students and bring them and industry together.
There was much to like about such an idea, much to notice, much to emulate.
“AAPG adopted the program in 2006 and turned it into a global event,” Cook said, “with the first competition taking place at the Long Beach ACE in 2007.”
(For you geological trivia buffs, The University of Aberdeen won that year)
Since the initial event, the competition has grown exponentially and now attracts 123 teams (universities) from 37 countries from every continent (apart from Antarctica, of course).
That translates into more than 2,400 graduate students who have participated.
This year’s final competition will be held just prior to the AAPG Annual Convention and Exhibition in Denver on May 31-June 3. The winners are announced during an awards presentation immediately before the ACE opening session.
The rationale for the competition is (and had always been) to give students real world experience and an opportunity to be judged on their work by industry experts.
But that’s not the program’s only appeal.
There is also the camaraderie from meeting other students, the chance to travel, to compete, to hear the accolades and – not to put too fine a point on this – to win individual recognition for themselves and cash awards for their schools.
First prize in the IBA garners $20,000 to the winning school. Second place earns the Selley Cup award and $10,000 for the school, and third place brings the Stoneley Medal plus $5,000 for the school.
Since its adoption the IBA program has awarded more than $300,000 in scholarship funds to university petroleum geoscience graduate programs.
And while you may assume that the list of winning schools would be dominated by just a few large, rich universities, that’s not been the case. Until last year, in fact, each year’s competition brought a new winner (last year’s winner, the University of Louisiana, Lafayette, became the program’s first repeat winners).
And to prove the global nature of the competition, other IBA winners have come from France, Russia and Scotland. Second and third place honors have been won by teams representing AAPG’s Middle East, Europe, Asia-Pacific and Canada Regions.
The IBA timeline goes like this: Applications are due by Dec. 12, and once registration closes, the participating teams are announced and then asked to analyze a dataset (geology, geophysics, land, production infrastructure and other relevant materials) in the eight weeks prior to their local competition.
At the local event, each team delivers its results in a 25-minute presentation to a panel of industry experts – and winners are announced.
The process then winnows to Region finals, and then ultimately onto the finals at the AAPG ACE setting.
Once at the finals, students again use state-of-the-art technology on a real dataset, receive feedback from industry representatives and experts, and work and receive guidance from professors and those in the field.
Judges select the winning team based not only on the technical quality of the presentation, but its clarity, originality and articulation.
“The program,” Cook said, “gives students a taste of the role of a geoscientist in industry. It also provides petroleum geoscience training to students who might not ordinarily receive such training in their university curriculum.”
Cook said the value of the competition lies not only in the educational opportunities it provides but also in the opportunities for networking with experienced industry professionals and gaining insight into what a career in petroleum exploration might offer.
“Industry has a great respect for the program,” he said, “and many companies view it as an important item in a CV.”
The job component, while a great aspect of the competition, is not the only benefit.
“While many IBA alumni have been recruited through their participation in the competition, the more significant effect of the IBA program is that it fulfills many of the strategic goals of the AAPG and AAPG Foundation by providing education, professional development, and encouragement for AAPG membership globally,” Cook added.
The competition has and continues to receive impressive corporate support from industries through the world. As it grows, the hope is that corporate involvement will, too.
In short, the IBA is an opportunity for students to experience the creative process and the high-tech science, to be introduced to corporate movers and shakers, meet recruiters, share knowledge with the next generation of student geologists and then, together, when their time comes, to change the face of energy.
And if you want to be part of it, the time to apply is now.