The transition to a low-carbon economy affects corporations, communities and professional associations across the world, and AAPG is no exception. From the Division of Environmental Geosciences and the Energy Minerals Division to the Sustainable Development Committee and the Sustainable Development in Energy Competition, the Association continues to adapt and drive initiatives to help members diversify their career options in the geosciences.
In 2024, one of AAPG’s most iconic programs will take an important step into the new energy landscape.
The Imperial Barrel Award is a leading global educational subsurface basin analysis program for graduate geoscience students to experience the work of a team evaluating sustainable resource potential using geological and geophysical data within a simulated corporate environment.
AAPG’s IBA Committee announced a new development for the 18th year of the program:
Participating teams may choose either a petroleum, carbon sequestration or geothermal dataset to analyze and interpret.
The objective is to enhance the skills of students in subsurface interpretation and geological concepts, which are of value within the various career paths they may choose to take.
A Natural Progression
Adding renewable energy datasets is one of several changes to the program in recent years. The competition moved from an in-person to a virtual format during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, and in 2021 the AAPG U.S. Sections and Canada Region combined to select a single team to represent the United States/Canada Region in the Global Final.
In 2022, the IBA committee added a sustainability component to other scoring criteria, including regional context, integrated systems analysis, risk assessment and wellbore and analog analysis.
Sudeep Kanungo, IBA Program Committee social media chair, said that the sustainability component was key to helping participants understand the environmental impact of energy projects.
“Students are aware of the increasing importance of renewable energy, which is key to a safer, cleaner, economically viable and sustainable world. Renewable energy is abundant, naturally replenished and emits little or practically no greenhouse gases and is a critical component in decarbonizing the economy via a diversified energy portfolio. Students cannot be left out from the process of understanding and applying sustainability in a holistic manner in any geoscience program today,” he said.
Kanungo noted that adding additional datasets is a natural progression for the premier global educational program focusing on subsurface geoscience.
“The current and future energy demand can only be met with a much wider and diversified energy forms that will require geoscientists to address a wider variety of subsurface problems and think outside the box, so to speak,” he said. “Therefore, programs like the IBA have a much bigger role today in training and preparing students to join the workforce and create a sustainable future for our planet.”
Fresh Approach, Familiar Competition
IBA Program Committee Co-Chair Jensen Angelloz said that including the sustainability component allowed students to expand their thought process.
“We Committee members kept that sustainability aspect very open-ended to challenge the students to think critically and bring new ideas to the judges. They answered the challenge and presented great ideas,” he said.
Angelloz said that, just like scoring criteria, adding new datasets helps keep the competition fresh and relevant.
“We are always looking to add more datasets as they are recycled every year. We do a great job of rotating them so universities that compete each year see something new every time. Since we are expanding the scope of the program, we need new datasets that have critical information that not all our legacy datasets have,” he said.
“We have some great new datasets that are being donated. We will reveal them during the dataset release.”
Angelloz explained how, unlike other years when datasets were assigned automatically, teams registering for the 2024 competition will have the opportunity to choose the focus area.
“The expectation is that we will be able reach universities and students that would not otherwise have an interest in our esteemed program. That reach should also extend to companies searching for great young talent to bring into their organization,” he said.
Evolution of Knowledge
Stefanie Hormaza, IBA Program Committee co-chair, said the additional datasets help the program stay relevant.
“The oil industry and the world are constantly evolving, and the IBA must too,” she said.
“The change this year is significant, and it is a change that was made thinking about the participants. I am sure that there will be a lot of motivation from students and teams who want to be a part of the next generation of the IBA,” she added. “The new approach to CCS and geothermal energy will allow all students to learn about these new energies and explore new areas of knowledge.”
Hormaza said the IBA’s evolution reminds her of her personal transformation that occurred when she moved from Latin America to Europe.
“In my previous role as Latin America and Caribbean Region IBA coordinator and during my studies in Ecuador, I noticed that renewables and clean energies were not major topics discussed frequently in universities or in the workplace,” she said.
“Now as co-chair of the IBA Program who is developing professionally in Europe, I have learned just how important renewable energies are to the European energy sector, as well as the impact of the European sector on the development of green energy. I am really excited about seeing the results in this new phase for IBA,” she said.
The 2024 Competition
Registration for the 2024 program opened on Sept. 15 and closes Dec. 31.
The program takes place during the first quarter of 2024 and is open to university teams of primarily master’s geoscience students. Teams have eight weeks to complete their interpretations and recommendations using software, training and mentorship provided within the program.
After completing their work, teams present their conclusions to a panel of industry judges at regional semifinals.
Winning teams will advance to the global final competition where trophies and prizes will be awarded for the best interpretations and presentations.
Regional semifinals and the Global Final will be conducted virtually or in-person, depending upon the amount of sponsorship secured for the program.
Obtaining IBA program sponsorship is one of Angelloz’s primary objectives as committee co-chair.
“The students that participate in this program are some of the most highly qualified talents entering the industry. If a company recruits at universities or hires new graduates, they should support this program as these students already have worked a real-world dataset and developed a detailed plan to develop prospects on a compressed timeline. Many do this while still taking classes, working or writing theses,” he said.
“If your company wants someone that can multitask, works well in a team environment and deliver positive results to your bottom line, you should be supporting the Imperial Barrel Award,” he added.
Angelloz said that companies have multiple ways to support the IBA.
“Companies can provide volunteers to mentor students, judge presentations, speak at educational webinars and participate on the committee,” he said.
Another way to support the program is by donating datasets.
“The program always is exploring new ways to bring students new data and experiences. Datasets can be strictly petroleum, CCS or geothermal or they can be a mix. We do have one dataset that students can attack all three energy aspects,” Angelloz said.
The largest need is financial, said Angelloz, who dreams of holding an in-person competition – which was an annual tradition prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent drop in IBA sponsorship funding.
“The program has a financial threshold that we must reach before we can bring the in-person competition back. We are confident we can bring the in-person aspect back to this program,” he said.
A Career-Defining Opportunity
Regardless of the format, both Committee co-chairs advocate the program as a life-changing experience.
Angelloz said the program helps recent graduates find a competitive edge in the workforce.
“Participating in this program will not only teach students how to think differently; it will teach soft skills such as communication and teamwork that can be difficult to show on a resume. Including this program on the resume speaks volumes to recruiters,” he said.
Hormaza said the program helps participants develop a well-rounded, global perspective.
“There is no substitute for the opportunity to spend eight weeks working with real data in an environment simulating work as an exploration geologist or engineer. The IBA provides not only an eight-week project, but also the opportunity to provide equal knowledge, create new experiences and to open work and study possibilities for all students from all regions,” she said.
“Now IBA will be a springboard for more students to choose careers in CCS or geothermal energy without forgetting that petroleum geologists and their subsurface analysis skills are a fundamental part of the energy transition,” Hormaza added.
To learn more about the IBA, register to participate or to sponsor the competition, visit iba.aapg.org.