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Geology students again stake claim among world’s best at finding oil

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Geosciences graduate students at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette continue to prove they are among the best in the world at prospecting for oil.

The latest evidence? A team of five students pursuing master’s degrees in geology won the 2020 award for technical excellence during an international competition sponsored by the American Association of Petroleum Geologists.

The AAPG’s Imperial Barrel Award competition held earlier this month required students to determine the viability of a prospective oil reservoir. UL Lafayette team members Samsideen Ajala, Josh Cecil, Natalie Helm, Gage Hendrix and Ricardo Penaloza competed against students from more than 150 colleges and universities from across the world.

Faculty advisor Dr. Raphael Gottardi, an associate professor of geology, said the team analyzed datasets related to geology, geophysics, land, production infrastructure and other factors in the Gulf of Mexico in the weeks leading up to the competition.

Based on their findings, the team made a 25-minute presentation to a panel of industry experts, providing recommendations about spots that showed promise for drilling and places to avoid.

“In addition to simply analyzing the data they were given, our students were able to do some processing to extract information,” Gottardi explained.

The team earned a berth in the AAPG’s Imperial Barrel Award international competition by winning the Gulf Coast regional event in March. The University of Houston placed second, and Auburn University was third. LSU, Rice and Stephen F. Austin State universities, and the universities of Alabama and Texas at San Antonio also competed.

That contest, like the international competition, had been scheduled to take place in Houston. Both were held remotely because of COVID-19 concerns.

Since its inception in 2007, the University’s team has won the Imperial Barrel Award competition a record three times – in 2012, 2014 and 2018.

This year, the IFP School in Rueil-Malmaison, France, won the overall competition. King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, placed second, and the University of Calgary was third.

Learn more about the AAPG’s Imperial Barrel Award competition.

Photo caption: Members of the School of Geosciences’ Imperial Barrel team at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, from left, are Josh Cecil, Ricardo Penaloza, Samsideen Ajala, Natalie Helm and Gage Hendrix. Photo credit: Courtesy of UL Lafayette's School of Geosciences