Imperial Barrel Competition – 2008

Title: Imperial Barrel Competition

Author: Cat Campbell

Publication: The Outcrop, May 2008, P. 10-11, 30

“Do we want in?” That was the question faced by two teams of graduate students at the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) Imperial Barrel Award (IBA) Rocky Mountain Regional competition on March 1st. Teams representing the University of Colorado (CU) and Colorado School of Mines (CSM) stood in front of a panel of five industry experts and presented conclusions from a technical assessment of a petroleum system dataset provided to the students only eight weeks prior to the competition. After over an hour of deliberation, the judges determined that the CSM Oil Diggers will advance to the international competition to be held at the AAPG annual meeting in San Antonio this April.

The Barrel Award began in 1976 at Imperial College of London as a Master’s level course focusing on the evaluation of the North Sea as a frontier basin. The objectives of the competition included: completing a rigorous and creative technical evaluation, working with a strict deadline, working effectively within a team, making decisions with incomplete data, and successfully presenting results to industry judges (from IBA website).

The University of Colorado team, left to right, Jason Anderson, Kris Schwendeman, Gina Bribiesca, and Mike Leibovitz (Rene Foster not pictured).

In 2007, AAPG developed the Barrel Award into the Imperial Barrel Award, creating an international graduate student challenge using datasets from around the world. The competition supports AAPG’s goals of promoting geoscience education as well as providing support for students as they begin a petroleum geoscience career path. While continuing to focus on the objectives initially associated with the competition, AAPG places additional emphasis on the real world nature of the IBA. Students are given real data to be analyzed using industry standard technology, all of which must be prepared into a succinct oral presentation for actual petroleum geoscience managers. Kasia Kuzniak, from the Oil Diggers commented, “It provided a great opportunity to work on a project from real life. It is nice to see how it works and to get feedback from managers. I have learned a lot so far and probably will learn more.”

After competing in the regional competition, teams advance to the preliminary competition at the AAPG annual convention, where six teams are selected for presentations in front of the final judging panel. Teams compete for awards and scholarships including: first place Imperial Barrel Award and $20,000, second place Selley Cup and $10,000, third place Stoneley Medal and $5,000, and honorable mentions for all competing teams of $1,000.

Colorado School of Mines, left to right, Aris Pramudito, Don Walker, Kasia Kuzniak, and Chris Huenick.

The CU team started the day with their prospect evaluation of the Viking Graben along the east side of the North Sea. Their dataset consisted of 945 km2 of 3-D seismic, four well logs, core photos, and several completion reports. From these data, Jason Adams, Gina Bribiesca, Rene Foster, Mike Leibovitz, and Kris Schwendeman developed four major prospects, aptly named after favorite Colorado destinations; Copper, Vail, Aspen, and Steamboat. The main plays involved four way closure structural highs with impressive P10 accumulations of 550 BCF per 12 km2 region, resulting in a conclusion of recommending further evaluation of the basin with the eventual goal of drilling. The team overall was enthusiastic about the IBA competition. Mike Leibovitz commented, “This contest allowed people to get a great ‘hands on’ feel for the data they will see later in their careers and learn a lot about the geology of their dataset area.”

The Oil Diggers of CSM explored 1,605 km2 of 3-D seismic, logs and completion reports for three wells, and published literature to evaluate the Australian Cooper-Eromanga Basin, which covers nearly a fifth of southeastern Australia. This prospect combines conventional structural plays, fluvial tight gas sands, and even coalbed natural gas, allowing for some unique and close to home analogues. The tight gas sand, known as the Patchawarra Formation, is similar to the Lance in the Pinedale area, with a fluvial depositional environment and intraformational coal sources. Overall, the Oil Diggers took a more conservative approach, which they explained was necessary to account for the high heterogeneity in the system. Final recommendations on the future of the Cooper-Eromanga included starting development on the structural prospects and continuing into the unconventional tight gas sands and coal during later development stages.

University of Colorado answering questions.

Both teams spoke positively of the IBA experience at the end of the day, but made a few recommendations for future years. Mike from CU explains, “One thing we hope to see next year is more participants. The Rocky Mountain region is one of the biggest geographically in the country and has a lot of schools with good geology programs.” Another recommendation relates to available data. Certain datasets used in the competition, although presented as frontier basins, are highly developed, allowing teams to obtain more information from their areas than what is provided by the IBA panel. Both teams commented that a standardization of allowable outside material would enhance the equality of data for the competing teams. Otherwise, the common sentiment among the participants was that the IBA was a challenge, but that it was a great opportunity to see real working data and tools from the oil patch. Chris from CSM notes, “Those were the hardest two credits [I have] ever earned,” but her teammate Kasia summed it up for the team with, “Can’t wait to go San Antonio.”