Imperial Barrel Award Competition Goes Virtual

The Imperial Barrel Award program has been associated with the AAPG and coordinated by a volunteer committee of AAPG members since 2007. With the objective of introducing geoscience students in graduate school to real world data and workflows in the oil and gas industry, the core of the annual IBA competition is the people – all volunteers, industry leaders and subject-matter experts willingly taking time to judge and coordinate competitions as well as network with the hard-working, eager and promising future industry leaders.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent crash of crude oil prices presented the IBA Committee with unique challenges for continuing with the 2020 IBA competition while ensuring the safety of all participating teams and volunteers.

For the last few years, the Africa and Latin America & Caribbean regions held their IBA semifinals using a hybrid system of virtual and in-person, while the Asia Pacific Region has held its semifinals completely virtual for several years. The Canada Region has been conducting virtual semifinals while pairing with the Pacific and Rocky Mountain sections, respectively, for the past two years.

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The Imperial Barrel Award program has been associated with the AAPG and coordinated by a volunteer committee of AAPG members since 2007. With the objective of introducing geoscience students in graduate school to real world data and workflows in the oil and gas industry, the core of the annual IBA competition is the people – all volunteers, industry leaders and subject-matter experts willingly taking time to judge and coordinate competitions as well as network with the hard-working, eager and promising future industry leaders.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent crash of crude oil prices presented the IBA Committee with unique challenges for continuing with the 2020 IBA competition while ensuring the safety of all participating teams and volunteers.

For the last few years, the Africa and Latin America & Caribbean regions held their IBA semifinals using a hybrid system of virtual and in-person, while the Asia Pacific Region has held its semifinals completely virtual for several years. The Canada Region has been conducting virtual semifinals while pairing with the Pacific and Rocky Mountain sections, respectively, for the past two years.

This year, the Middle East Region reacted quickly due to a cancellation of the conference where their in-person semifinal was to be held and successfully transitioned to conduct their semifinal virtually.

With the advent of school closures and massive travel and gathering restrictions, the Europe Region and Pacific and Eastern sections paused their competitions until late May. Recently they resumed and successfully completed their virtual semifinal competitions.

IBA Global Final

The success of the section and region semifinals in holding their respective competitions under unique and unorthodox circumstances gave merit to holding the global final virtually.

The IBA Committee worked quickly and diligently to find a solution that allowed for a global competition to occur with as many teams as possible competing, while keeping everyone’s health and safety paramount. Since many teams would have a difficult time getting visas and with the AAPG Annual Convention and Exhibition in Houston postponed from its original June 7-10 schedule, the solution on which the IBA Committee and AAPG executive leadership voted and agreed was to hold the IBA global final competition virtually June 5-6.

A few other provisions had to be made concerning future team participation. If a team had to drop out of the 2020 IBA competition due to complications or restrictions related to COVID-19, that university will be able to field a team in the 2021 competition as long as the assigned 2020 dataset is deleted and the IBA Committee notified. Student exemptions remain on a case-by-case basis.

The IBA Committee recoginizes that 2020 has presented unique circumstances in all aspects of life – not just in the professional realm – and we want to make sure we are able to support students, judges, volunteers and AAPG support staff in the most meaningful way that assists all to succeed in professional and life goals. As such, we hope our decision to hold a virtual global final provides a precedent for overcoming obstacles, no matter how great, to achieve a desired outcome.

We are disappointed the section and region semifinalist teams will not be able to travel to Houston, the energy capital of the world, to present their hard work to a panel of top industry leaders. We would love nothing more than to postpone the 2020 IBA global final until later in the year and welcome all competing teams to present, but restrictions on the tax status and the termination of the 2019-20 fiscal year of the AAPG will not allow us to do so.

We would like to thank everyone associated with IBA for their devotion during this unprecedented time, especially our mentors. As everyone associated with the IBA program knows, we have the best mentorship program in the world!

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