Rocky Mountain Imperial Barrel Award – 2010

Title: Rocky Mountain Imperial Barrel Award
Author: Cat Campbell
Publication: The Outcrop, June 2010, p. 17-18

The CSM students face the judges to discuss their presentation. Photo courtesy of Steve Sonnenberg.

Imagine this: six weeks, three wells logs, the North Sea, a 25 minute talk, three industry judges, and the chance to win $20,000: What would you do? The Colorado School of Mines (CSM) 2010 Rocky Mountain Imperial Barrel Award (IBA) champions took on the challenge in this graduate student competition, amazing the Rocky Mountain Region Judges. Volunteer judge Dean DuBois of Encana said of their presentation: “In the 29 years I have worked in the industry I’ve never seen a presentation to management with the effectiveness shown by this team’s work.” He continues, “Effectiveness meaning solid technical merit combined with a seamless, well orchestrated, nicely illustrated presentation.” With praise such as this coming from the regional panel, the CSM team took off for the international competition in New Orleans during the AAPG convention.

From left to right: Adrian Almanza, Jeff Reindl, Vasilisa Nekhorosheva, Steve Sonnenberg, Alejandra Maldonado, and Chris Lang. The team members are wearing their AAPG medals. Photo courtesy of Steve Sonnenberg.

The IBA program began at Imperial College in 1976, and has evolved in the past five year to an international graduate student competition involving petroleum students from the Middle East and Russia to the UK and Colorado. The students must first be selected in regional competitions and then continue on to the $20,000 prize international finals. The students are judged on how they handle completing a technical play assessment of petroleum potential, define key plays and recommend a drill or no drill plan for future exploration of their assigned region.

The competition is valuable for students to gain real industry experience using data donated by companies, but also valuable for the companies in terms of recruiting by exposing the future of the industry to a rigorous challenge.

The CSM team, led by Steve Sonnenberg consisted of five members: Adrian Almanza, Vasilisa Nekhorosheva , Alejandra Maldonado Pena, Chris Lang, and Jeff Reindl. When asked about their experiences, the students emphatically expressed how positive an experience it was. The following are team member comments.

Adrian Almanza: “IBA was a fantastic experience; it was a real litmus test to one’s readiness, a comprehensive outlook at presenting oil and gas prospects. It was also a reality check into how integrated petroleum exploration teams work. I like the way IBA is set up, tabula rasa, a blank slate where you paint a picture that you and your team believe represent the best approximate truth. It was a real treat to go to New Orleans and compete with the world. It was also a great networking experience.”

From left to right: Kim Parsons, head of the RMS AAPG IBA committee, and Becky Kowalski, committee member thank the judges for their volunteer time. Photo courtesy of Steve Sonnenberg.

Team captain, Vasilisa Nekhorosheva: “Firstly, you should keep going and never stop. There was a time we felt lost and didn’t know what to do, but we just kept going and the solution came…No doubt [the] IBA competition was a great challenge as well as fun for all of us.”

As you sit amazed with the students going through our petroleum programs today, I bet you are asking yourself how you can help this amazing program be more successful. The Rocky Mountain Region of AAPG is huge, but the regional committee has a very hard time recruiting schools. If you graduated from a school in this region and would like future alums of your program to graduate with an experience such as this, please check out the IBA website,, and then contact Cat Campbell and let the committee know that you want to help recruit!