Call it unprecedented, call it exciting and unpredictable, call it historic – and you’re right each time.
The 2020 Imperial Barrel Award global finals competition was one for the record books – for the first time ever, the entire competition, impacted by the global pandemic that threatened to end it before it began, was held virtually in early June, adding a new chapter in the program’s illustrious history.
Indeed, this year’s competition had many firsts – a global pandemic, an entirely virtual competition and the introduction of the IBA Exploration Leadership Series.
Eleven teams representing all 12 Sections and Regions competed for this year’s prize in a well-organized two-day virtual contest that earned praise from sponsors, participants and judges.
- IFP School, representing the Europe Region from Rueil-Malmaison, France, won the coveted Imperial Barrel Award, along with $20,000 for their school (IFP previously had won the IBA in 2010).
- King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, representing the Middle East Region from Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, won the second-place Selley Cup and $10,000 for their school (King Fahd previously finished third in 2010 and 2015).
- The University of Calgary, representing both the Canada Region and the Rocky Mountain Section, was the third-place Stoneley Medal along with $5,000 for their school (The school had won the Selley Cup in 2010).
- The Institute Technology Bandung, representing the Asia Pacific Region from Bandung, Indonesia, won this year’s Teamwork Excellence award.
- Perennial IBA finalist (and three-time IBA winner) University of Louisiana Lafayette, representing the Gulf Coast Section, won this year’s Technical Innovation Excellence award.
The remaining IBA finalist teams all received $1,000 for their schools by virtue of winning their respective semi-final competitions. They were:
- Suez University (Africa Region)
- Pennsylvania State University (Eastern Section)
- Industrial University of Santander (Latin America and Caribbean Region)
- University of Arkansas (Mid-Continent Section)
- California State University, Long Beach (Pacific Section)
- University of Texas at Dallas (Southwest Section)
Challenges Made, Challenges Met
The onset of the COVID-19 meeting restrictions created challenges for not only region and section competitions, but for all the teams working on their respective projects. The disparity in restrictions across the world paused semi-final competitions for some teams, while other regions/sections completed their competitions before the onset of COVID-19 restrictions.
IBA Committee co-chairs Karl Bloor and Afton Van Zandt monitored restrictions daily with the help of the region and section coordinators, which allowed for quick decision-making as conditions changed. All competitions were completed before the May 31 deadline, which allowed representation in each region and section at the global final.
Since the Global Final event was virtual, the annual IBA Icebreaker was as well. Competitors joined a Zoom conference on the Tuesday prior to the start of the finals to network among themselves, meet the judges and discover when they would be presenting their work. Team introductions were amazing. Their excitement and enthusiasm for their project, the competition and industry aspirations could be felt emanating through the computer screen.
The creation of the IBA Exploration Leadership Series was in response to this year’s competitors being unable to have the full IBA networking experience, where teams get the chance to network with industry professionals and leaders at the Annual Conference and Exhibition.
The inspiration for this series, then, was to provide a world-class experience to these students during these extraordinary times.
The event was held over four days with a morning and evening talk to allow for global inclusivity. Royal Dutch Shell’s Marc Gerrits and William “Bill” Langin, executive vice president-Exploration and vice president-Exploration North America and Brazil, respectively, headlined day one to discuss “Exploration in 2020 and Beyond.” The next talk, “Diversity, Inclusion and Unsolicited Advice,” was given by Aramco Services Company geologic consultant and 2020 AAPG President-Elect Gretchen Gillis. Liz Schwarze, vice president of global exploration at Chevron Upstream, wrapped up the Exploration Leadership Series with “Exploration – The Future Starts Today.”
The AAPG IBA committee was extremely pleased with the success of this year’s competition despite the shock of a global pandemic. This success is due to the sponsors, volunteers, judges, AAPG staff and, of course, the dedication of the students. This year about 501 students representing 108 teams were able to complete their project (about 20 percent of the teams who initially signed-up for the IBA had to withdraw due to the pandemic) and present for a chance to move forward to the global finals.
While pleased, the committee is hopeful that 2020 will be the only year this competition will be fully virtual – however, if this proves not to be the case, we believe a precedent was set on how to execute a successful competition for a future IBA committee.
Because as Liz Schwarze eloquently stated, “ … the future starts today!”