Geosciences Team Advances to Imperial Barrel Award Finals
March 31, 2017
UT Dallas geosciences graduate students will compete against other university teams for the Imperial Barrel Award on Saturday in Houston. Team members are (standing) Ozo Obuseh, Nicholas Reynolds, Naomi Nichols and faculty advisor Dr. Robert Stern. Seated are Jack Cassels and Andrew Marietta.
A team of UT Dallas graduate students in the Department of Geosciences will put their knowledge of oil and gas exploration to the test this weekend as they compete against other university teams from around the world for the Imperial Barrel Award (IBA).
To reach the final competition, which is sponsored by the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, the UT Dallas students first won an IBA semifinal competition. Their top performance against four other Texas schools in the Southwest section earned them a berth in the finals in Houston, where they will be among a dozen teams from across the U.S., Europe, Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and other regions.
Here’s how the competition works: In the eight weeks prior to their regional contests, teams analyze a package of data about a given geographical region, determining whether their assigned area is likely to produce oil and gas and the best locations to drill. Teams then deliver their results in a 25-minute presentation to a panel of industry experts who select the winning group based on technical quality, clarity and originality.
The contest awards scholarship funds that benefit the winners’ geoscience departments. This year marks the first time in four attempts that a UT Dallas entry has won the Southwest section competition and advanced to the finals.
This year’s UT Dallas team, consisting of Jack Cassels, Andrew Marietta, Naomi Nichols, Ozo Obuseh and Nicholas Reynolds, analyzed a prospective region offshore of Nova Scotia, Canada. The team named its fictional oil and gas company Comet Exploration LLC, and assigned each member responsibilities that correspond to positions in actual petroleum exploration groups.
“Going through this process has allowed us to learn from each other and use the best of our collective ideas, and this has been key in our success.”
“One of our initial challenges was developing a schedule that would reduce the impact on our team members’ academic studies, work responsibilities, research and family obligations,” said Marietta, a master’s student. “Another challenge — which was also a major strength — was the diversity of our team. Our different personalities, experience, methods to approaching various problems and backgrounds were vital to our success and representative of the workforce we should expect to be part of in our careers.”
Marietta said the team members also learned to provide and receive constructive criticism.
“Building this trust is what teamwork is all about, and open communication and challenges are central to the development of a scientific project,” he said. “Going through this process has allowed us to learn from each other and use the best of our collective ideas, and this has been key in our success.”
Dr. Robert Stern, professor of geosciences and faculty advisor to the team, said the group’s industry advisors, Robert Webster and Nick Bongiovanni, were also key contributors to the success of this and previous IBA teams, helping to strengthen students’ presentations and build their confidence. Stern said the whole process of competing for the Imperial Barrel Award provides students with valuable insight.
“The competition is extremely good practice for attacking industry problems, as well as learning how to work together on a team, get organized and make a professional presentation,” he said. “Over the past four years, we have had remarkable groups of students who are very intelligent and willing to work hard. The 2017 team is an excellent example of how competitive our student teams are.”