Record-Setting Field Ready for IBA Season

The global field has been set for the largest AAPG/AAPG Foundation Imperial Barrel Award competition in the event’s history, with contests set to start this month around the world.

The 2015 IBA has attracted 140 teams from nearly 40 countries, representing all of AAPG’s Regions and Sections.

The IBA is an annual prospective basin evaluation competition for geoscience graduate students who compete as teams to win scholarship funds for their geoscience departments – plus a lot of recognition and career-enhancing status for themselves by being part of the program.

Each year, university teams analyze a dataset (geology, geophysics, land, production, infrastructure and other relevant materials) for nearly two months in preparation for the semi-final competitions against other teams in their respective Regions or Sections.

The 12 winning teams from this month’s events will go on to compete in the finals competition for the Imperial Barrel Award, which will take place May 29-31, just prior to the AAPG Annual Convention and Exhibition

in Denver.

The winning team will be announced in a special awards program that is open to all at 3 p.m. Sunday, as a lead-in to the ACE opening session.

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The global field has been set for the largest AAPG/AAPG Foundation Imperial Barrel Award competition in the event’s history, with contests set to start this month around the world.

The 2015 IBA has attracted 140 teams from nearly 40 countries, representing all of AAPG’s Regions and Sections.

The IBA is an annual prospective basin evaluation competition for geoscience graduate students who compete as teams to win scholarship funds for their geoscience departments – plus a lot of recognition and career-enhancing status for themselves by being part of the program.

Each year, university teams analyze a dataset (geology, geophysics, land, production, infrastructure and other relevant materials) for nearly two months in preparation for the semi-final competitions against other teams in their respective Regions or Sections.

The 12 winning teams from this month’s events will go on to compete in the finals competition for the Imperial Barrel Award, which will take place May 29-31, just prior to the AAPG Annual Convention and Exhibition in Denver.

The winning team will be announced in a special awards program that is open to all at 3 p.m. Sunday, as a lead-in to the ACE opening session.

The 2014 IBA was won by the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. In winning, the school became the first in the event’s history to become a two-time winner of the top prize, its first win coming in 2012.

The school is once again a part of this year’s competition, and will compete against 10 other teams for the right to represent the Gulf Coast Section in Denver.

Tough Times

While IBA is universally applauded as a wonderful opportunity for participating students to gain real-world experience in collaborative work – and to show their efforts to industry experts – this year’s competition, like so much of the industry’s activities, will be held under and during a dark economic cloud.

It is a trying time. And even with the support of the AAPG Foundation, industry support and sponsorship remain crucial to the IBA’s viability.

“The biggest impact on the program this year is the rapid decline in the price of oil and the consequent belt tightening in industry,” said AAPG member Charles A. “Chuck” Caughey, a senior adviser with Noble Energy and co-chair with David Cook of the IBA Committee.

That “current economic condition” translates into a more difficult environment in which to obtain the sponsorship required to run an educational program/competition of this nature and scope.

“Many of our loyal sponsors have been unable to contribute this year due to reductions in discretionary spending,” Caughey concedes.

As such, the IBA has had to make institutional changes this year to ensure not just fiscal responsibility, but also survival of the program itself.

“In response to the financial situation, a number of measures have been implemented,” Cook said, including conducting three of the Regional semi-finals as virtual competitions.

Likewise, the Europe Region, too, has seen a significant cutback in its operation.

“Limited acceptance of applications to the first 20 universities had to be instituted,” Cook said, “with the remaining schools encouraged to seek local funding.

“Two universities were able to find sponsorship and will take part in the competition,” he added. “Unfortunately this leaves eight universities unable to participate.”

Specifically, the economic tightening across the industry means that the datasets on which the schools and students work and are ultimately judged – in other words, the IBAs most integral part – must constantly change.

“We currently have nine active datasets,” Cook said. “Universities do not receive the same dataset twice, therefore the IBA Committee is actively seeking new well and seismic datasets for future use.

“Without new datasets,” he added, “we will not be able to run the competition in its present form.”

Fundraising continues, both Caughey and Cook said, and the committee remains committed to doing all it can to provide a real-world, career-development experience for the students who participate.

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