University of Houston Takes the Grand Prize at the 2019 Imperial Barrel Award Global Competition

The awards for the winning teams of the 2019 AAPG/AAPG Foundation Imperial Barrel Award (IBA) international competition were presented at the IBA Awards Ceremony during the recent AAPG 2019 Annual Convention and Exhibition in San Antonio. This year’s competition drew semifinalist teams from AAPG Regions, including Africa, Asia Pacific, Europe, Latin America and Caribbean, the Middle East as well as AAPG Sections, including Eastern, Gulf Coast, Mid-Continent, Pacific, Rocky Mountain and Southwest.

And this year’s award winners are:

  • Excellence in Teamwork – Sultan Qaboos University, Middle East Region.
  • Excellence in Innovation – Ain Shams University, Africa Region.
  • Third place Stoneley Medal and US $5,000 – University of Oklahoma, Mid-Continent Section.
  • Second place Selley Cup and US $10,000 – UniLaSalle, Europe Region.
  • First place Imperial Barrel Award and US $20,000 – University of Houston, Southwest Section.

In this prestigious event, university teams gain real-world experience by analyzing actual datasets donated by leading energy companies and conducting a 25-minute presentation before a panel of industry experts. The panel of judges selects winning teams based on the technical quality, clarity and the originality of their presentations. Students gain the experience of working with state-of-the-art technology and applications, receiving feedback from experts in the energy industry, networking with potential employers and the opportunity to win a cash prize. 

The awards for Excellence in Teamwork and Excellence in Innovation are new to the IBA program this year. John Dribus, chief judge of the 2019 IBA international final competition, said that these new awards would further enhance the IBA program.

“I always wanted to emphasize the importance of these student teams doing more than simply describing the obvious play on the block that the original operators had been looking for,” he said. “I wanted them to dig deep into their minds to truly EXPLORE for what others had missed, for something creative and fresh, new and exciting, true exploration.” Dribus referenced Wallace Pratt’s famous quote that “oil is first found in the minds of men,” which hits at the very core of exploration.

Dribus said that the Excellence in Innovation Award honors “that special spark of creativity that went beyond the obvious, and did something new in an old place, or even something old in a new place, that led to an idea which could become the next giant discovery.” He went on to describe the Excellence in Teamwork Award as recognizing the importance of collaboration. “The collective intellect and mental power [of the team] …  operating as one harmonious supporting organism delivering better results as one unit,” rather than “the individual parts could deliver by themselves.”

Now in its 13thyear, the IBA competition is a joint venture of the AAPG and the AAPG Foundation. Diamond sponsors included Chevron, Elsevier, Saudi Aramco and Shell. Additional sponsors can be found on the IBA website. The competition would not have been possible without the tireless efforts from the event co-chairs, Karl Bloor and Afton Van Zandt, AAPG staff, numerous volunteers and the generosity of the IBA financial supporters.

For more information regarding the program, please visit

Questions? Contact your Section or Region Programs Coordinator or the IBA Committee.