The 2022 Imperial Barrel Award competition included several important changes this year – combining the U.S. sections and Canada Region into a single group, adding a sustainability component to the scoring, and holding the entire competition virtually.
Though the online contest limited valuable in-person interaction, connecting virtually provided new opportunities for participants, including participation in the IBA Video Spotlight Series.
Sudeep Kanungo, the IBA Committee’s social media chair, described how the Spotlight Series gave a voice to teams throughout the world.
“For the first time, participants got to prepare and send us a video, giving every team visibility and providing outreach,” he said. The spotlight series included videos from more than 10 teams representing each of the six regions that participated this year.”
Kanungo said he was impressed by the quality of the participants who competed in 2022.
“The teams were super motivated and wanting to learn every aspect of exploration decision-making. They displayed formidable talent and leadership, fulfilling a critical need in the energy industry,” he said.
A Valuable Experience
Michael Young, first year master’s student at the University of Louisiana – Lafayette, said the most valuable part of the competition for him was learning the value of teamwork.
“Competitions like these attract people from every different walk of life. Exploring how we can use the best parts of each person’s walk to move down the path to success taught me more than any school assignment ever would,” he said. “I grew new appreciation and respect for different team members in and out of the office. The relationships we built here will last a lifetime, and I’ll treasure the time I had with these great teammates.”
Young said that, in addition to being one of the valuable IBA experiences, effective teamwork also represented one of the greatest challenges. He described how the IBA taught him how to work as a mediator during times of tension.
“Whenever you have five people working on one project, many conflicting ideas can arise. I was often the person people turned to because my team knew they could trust me to figure out the middle ground, or whose idea agreed more with the data according to multiple perspectives and treat everyone with respect and love along the way,” he said. “A large part of this is keeping the team happy and learning how to be the glue that binds them all together. This competition is a great example of a chain being as strong as its weakest link, which means we all need to help each other be strong, no matter the weakness.”
For Colombian student Margarita Sierra, the biggest challenge for her team, the Universidad Industrial de Santander, was developing a complex exploration project in just eight weeks.
“Our biggest struggle was processing the data within the time constraints,” she said. “This was reflected in great amount of time dedicated to the development of the work, sleepless nights, leaving aside our hobbies and pastimes in order to develop an excellent project and obtain the best possible results.”
Matthieu Dadou a final year geological engineering student at the University of La Salle in France, said his team’s greatest challenge was the quality of the data provided.
“Our dataset had poor seismic coverage and was difficult to interpret because of a basalt layer on the whole area,” he said. “We had to use our knowledge and studies conducted in similar neighboring basins to understand and hypothesize all the geometry and filling of our basin to estimate the petroleum potential and proposed an appropriate exploration program.”
Hard Work Pays Off
The sleepless nights, conflicts and challenges faded into the background during the awards ceremony held via Zoom on Saturday, May 21. IBA participants, judges and sponsors connected from around the world to join Jensen Angelloz as he announced the winners.
The University of LaSalle, France (Europe Region) took first place, winning the Imperial Barrel Award and $20,000. The University of Louisiana – Lafayette (U.S. and Canada Region) took second place and with it the Selley Cup and $10,000. The Universidad industrial de Santander, Colombia (Latin America and Caribbean Region) took third place, receiving the Stoneley medal and $5,000.
Dadou said the news came as a bit of a shock at first.
“We were very happy and had a hard time realizing what we had just achieved, probably because the final and the results were done online, and the team was not complete during the announcement. Our first thought was about all the people who helped us during the competition,” he said.
While enjoying the victory, UniLaSalle team members thought of others.
“We were incredibly proud and happy to have won. For us, it was a real challenge to compete with such great teams. To receive such prestige is gratifying knowing all the work and time we put into the IBA. However, we keep a thought for the universities that had to withdraw during the competition, especially the University of Kyiv, because of the current political crisis in Europe.”
Young said he felt “ecstatic” and “exhilarated” when he heard that the UL Lafayette team took second place.
“It felt like the whole world stopped when our name was announced. The whole world got to see our biggest achievement! I had made friends with UniLaSalle before the world competition, so I was even happier that my French friends got to share in the success with us,” he said. “This made me finally realize and appreciate all that I am capable of. My phone was ringing nonstop with everyone wanting to know how we did, and it felt great telling them about our big win.”
Sierra said that taking third place in the global competition was an emotional experience for UIS, a team composed entirely of undergraduates.
“Sincerely, it was one of the best moments of our professional life, we felt very proud of the work done and all the willingness of our colleagues, it was excellent teamwork,” she said.
Benefits for Universities
Sierra also noted that the school’s strong performance in IBA encourages other students from UIS to participate in the IBA “semillero” (seedbed), a volunteer program run by the UIS AAPG Student Chapter and led by former IBA participants committed to preparing participants for the competition.
Sierra, a seedbed graduate herself, said the 2022 earnings will help to develop the program.
“When we entered the university, we saw the process of previous participants and their good results,” she said. “We entered the seedbed to prepare for the IBA. Now that we have some prize money, we plan to invest it in the development of the seedbed to continue forming excellent IBA competitors.”
UIS is not the only team planning to use IBA earnings to benefit the university.
Dadou said that UniLaSalle will use the earnings to benefit the university and future students.
“The university has decided to donate a portion to the Albert de Lapparent virtual museum, which brings together the university’s geological collection and those of individuals,” he said. “Another part will be given to the student chapter.”
Young said they look forward to celebrating the IBA win with the entire university.
“We are from Louisiana so the celebration will include our university family, Cajun food and carbonated beverages, but the University intends to offer scholarships to bolster the undergraduate geosciences program,” he said.
Cash Awards for Semifinals Participants
Angelloz explained that another change implemented in 2022 provides additional cash prizes to regional semifinal participants.
“In previous years, we provided $1,000 to the U.S. sections and international regional winners who did not place in the top three positions globally,” he said.
“Sponsorship funds for region semifinals traditionally paid for travel and venue expenses related to holding in-person competitions. Since all semifinal competitions and the global finals took place virtually this year, committee members decided to use the savings to provide $500 to the teams taking both second and third place at the regional level,” he added.
Angelloz noted that the committee hopes to return to in-person competition in the future but doing so will depend on sponsorship raised.
A Post-Competition Competitive Advantage
While IBA provides tangible benefits for schools, the biggest competition winners are the participants themselves.
Sierra said that, while she and her team members are focused on completing their undergraduate studies and internships, they feel confident knowing that they have a competitive advantage after graduation.
“Thanks to the recognition of the IBA competition, we have received some job and academic offers, which have opened our minds and a range of options for the future,” she said.
Dadou said contest results provided new academic opportunities for UniLaSalle team members.
“Participating in the IBA helped some of us to be accepted in specialized master in exploration and production of geoenergies,” he said. “For the school, it’s a pride to have champions among their students and it comforts them for the new way that geoenergies courses are taking.”
Young said that IBA has prepared him for his ultimate career goal: owning his own company.
“After graduation, I will be working in petroleum exploration to get enough experience to start my own geoscience company one day. One thing IBA taught me is that I have much to learn, and that some things can only be learned in the industry,” he said. “It can be tough work, but I will not stop until I have some of my own wells out there one day to help America solve our near-term energy dilemma.”
Encouraging Others to Participate
Young described the IBA competition as indispensable for any future explorationist.
“Definitely do this if you want to supercharge your learning. You’ll learn new types of data, teamwork, and more about yourself then you would ever imagine. This will change your life for the better. Although it takes hard work and long hours, the most valuable lesson learned is the difference that teamwork makes in developing technical knowledge and success,” he said.
Committee member Jim Ferry said IBA participation gives students opportunities to experience first-hand how it feels to work in oil and gas.
“If you think that you might be interested in working as a petroleum geologist, this is very close to the real thing. Even if you decide you don’t want to work in petroleum geology, the work is geology and the teamwork, the deadline and the coordinated presentation is unlike most experience in school but very applicable to any work environment,” he said.
Ferry, who coordinates the industry mentor program, said interaction with experienced professionals provides a tangible advantage to participants.
“Working with industry mentors is an opportunity for the students to make great industry contacts who can serve as a reference and advisor as they transition from school into the workplace,” he said.
Gretchen Gillis, immediate past president of AAPG and longtime IBA advocate, said she appreciates how the competition offers a real-world experience and evolves with industry trends.
“Working with time pressure is also a great simulation of the realities in industry – never enough time, never enough data,” she said. “I am especially pleased that the sustainability component of the IBA was added this year. It is a topic that is important to many of us in AAPG along with IBA sponsors and AAPG’s corporate advisers.”
A Program Worth Supporting
Gillis, like committee members and participants, understands that the IBA’s future depends on sponsorship, and she urged both companies and individuals to invest in the program.
“I hope that companies will continue to generously support the IBA, not only because it is the best opportunity of its kind, but also because IBA will help transfer knowledge from one generation of explorers to the next,” she said. “I also urge individuals to support the program – IBA alumni and AAPG members can ‘pay it forward’ to the next generations of geoscientists.”
Young said he sees companies’ IBA support as an investment in their future workforce.
“The IBA competition molds future geos to better understand how to become more effective team members. The sponsoring companies become the most favored workplaces of the contestants,” he said. “If a company is considering sponsorship, they will have a significant advantage at hiring the most commercially talented employees. Any company that chooses not to sponsor is missing out on the best opportunity to recruit people who not only can work with all your data but do it in a high stress, team environment. IBA candidates gain an advantage by experiencing the finesse, teamwork and commitment that projects like this require.”
Looking to the Future
The 13-member IBA Committee continues to seek new and innovative ways to promote the program.
Karl Bloor, a Committee member who oversees competition datasets, is working with companies to include additional study areas in the 2023 competition.
“We added three new datasets in 2020 and are planning to add new datasets, including a treasure trove of data we received from Western Australia’s Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety,” he said. “We have more hard drives available to be sent out to other potential dataset donators.”
Schlumberger provided a Petrel license in 2021 to help manage the datasets, and AAPG donated a computer to run the software. Bloor noted that access to software is key to student success in the competition, and dataset and software donations are as important as cash donations to keeping the program dynamic and growing.
“Some of our schools are getting multimillion-dollar license agreements at no cost to them to be able to teach petroleum geology courses using actual industry tools,” he said. “These license donations give students a huge advantage, not only during the competition but also during their future careers in industry.”
Call for IBA Ambassadors
Kanungo said that a positive IBA experience not only helps participants find good careers; it also encourages them to continue to support the program after graduation,
“Having participated in the IBA makes a huge difference on your CV and is advantageous in your interviews. It’s one of the best marketing tools students can use in promoting themselves. It’s also an opportunity for networking and job-searching. By participating, they become ambassadors of the IBA program.”
For Angelloz, who competed in the IBA competition with Stephen F. Austin State University in 2016, the most effective IBA ambassadors are those who have benefitted personally from the competition.
He encouraged those who value the program to serve as IBA ambassadors in their professional and personal communities.
“Most young geoscientists entering the industry have been impacted by a mentor or a committee volunteer. These professionals understand the transition from student to professional and are genuinely interested in making it easier for the new generation of geoscientists,” he said. “Young professionals are perfect mentors as their transition experience can be more relatable to current students. I urge any YP that is interested giving back to reach out to the IBA Committee.”
Angelloz hopes that ambassadors will continue to keep the program strong, supporting schools, students and professionals along the way.
Young said he will forever be grateful for IBA’s impact on his life.
“This competition changed my perspective on life. It gave me a new job, lifelong friends, confidence in my geoscience skills, and a whole lot of happiness. The things most worth it in life are often hardest to get, and this is no exception,” he said. “Achieving success in IBA is not just a trophy but a fulfilling happiness knowing that you may have a shot out there in the big leagues.”
For information about being an IBA sponsor, participant, or ambassador, contact [email protected].
To see the Student Video highlights, visit the AAPG Student Programs Facebook page and LinkedIn account.