The Latin America Region Imperial Barrel Award Competition was exciting as ever this year – with 17 teams representing six countries – but the 2015 contest brought some important changes.
Both the industry downturn that reduced corporate sponsorships and the ever-growing number of teams forced IBA Coordinators to implement cost-saving measures.
The primary solution came through WebEx, Web-conferencing software that allows teams, judges and coordinators to meet virtually and view each other, as well as the presentation being projected. AAPG’s Asia Pacific Region has used the software for years, since the number of teams participating and the expansive geography of the region makes travel cost-prohibitive.
The Latin America Region opted for a hybrid model, with all teams participating in a virtual competition via WebEx and the top four teams advancing to an in-person Semifinal competition in Trinidad and Tobago.
For IBA Coordinator Byron Solarte, geologist at LINN Energy, the strategy allowed all interested teams to participate while also accommodating budget restrictions.
“Overall we are happy to see recurring and new schools participating every year, all the team members and advisors have done an excellent work throughout the past 6 years,” he said.
The virtual competition took place March 2, when the 17 teams were divided randomly into two groups with two judges per group. Teams delivered 25-minute presentations and had 10 minutes to answer questions from the judges, industry professionals with experience evaluating exploration projects.
One of the judges was Peter Goddard, exploration team lead of BG Group Trinidad, who participated in the Barrel Award competition 10 years ago as a student at Imperial College in London.
Goddard said that, while hosting the competition virtually provided occasional technical challenges, the issues were not unsurmountable and they actually helped to contribute to the “real world” nature of the event.
“All teams got the opportunity to present their high quality work and as a judge I could get a good idea of the merits of their work. Presenting to management virtually, with all the technical issues that are entailed, is part of the real life challenge that exploration teams in non-head office locations routinely face,” he said.
Judges evaluated presentations based on technical analysis and recommendations, evidence of teamwork and response to the question-and-answer session, and then met privately following the competition to choose the top two finalists from their group.
The Group A judges chose the University of the Andes in Bogotá, Colombia and the Central University of Venezuela in Caracas. Group B selected the National University of Colombia – Bogotá campus and the Simon Bolivar University in Caracas, Venezuela.
Goddard noted that mentoring from industry professionals might level the playing field for those universities with fewer links with the oil and gas industry.
“Back in the original Imperial based competition, I remember that there were some industry mentors who gave teams some guidance. While watching the presentations it was fairly apparent which universities had a strong oil and gas focus versus a couple of universities that did not,” he said. “Assigning those university teams an industry mentor may have helped them compete with the more traditional oil and gas schools.”
IBA virtual round participants presented to judges from ExxonMobil, Shell, BG Group and the University of the West Indies. Quarterfinalists from the four universities traveled to Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago for the semifinal competition held April 10 held at BG Group Trinidad headquarters.
The semifinal competition allowed students to present in-person before judges representing BG Group and the Geological Society of Trinidad and Tobago (GSTT). The format was the same as the virtual round, a 25-minute presentation followed by 10 minutes of questions and answers.
Ron Daniel, geoscience advisor working with BG’s acreage offshore Trinidad and Tobago, said he enjoyed working as a judge at the event.
“I was very impressed by the high quality of work done by the student teams and their very positive attitude, as well as by how close the scores from the judges were, both within the individual elements marked and the total score for each team,” he said, “The students were just what our industry needs; upbeat, well presented, curious and keen to socialize and network, both with each other and with the invited industry guests.”
When Daniel learned of the competition through his position as director at the Geological Society of Trinidad and Tobago, he approached BG Group about hosting the event.
“We took this opportunity to support an excellent competition, as well as showcasing the company to the participating students,” he said.
After all of the presentations were completed, students enjoyed a tour of the facility and met with BG employees who talked to them about company projects, graduate opportunities and career development.
The event finished off finalized with an evening reception and awards ceremony announcing the Region winner, Universidad Simon Bolivar of Caracas, Venezuela.
The announcement was no surprise for Daniel.
“Their victory was clear cut and well deserved, based on excellent work which was well presented,” he said. “They were also very gracious in victory.”
The graciousness was evident in comments from team member, Clara Braña, fifth year undergraduate geophysics student who described her experience in Trinidad as “extraordinary.”
"I greatly appreciate the AAPG and all our sponsors for making this experience possible, especially BG Group and the IBA coordinators for their dedication and enthusiasm throughout the competition," she said. "The cultural exchange among the finalists was valuable and fun; and I came away not only with a wonderful professional experience but also with new friends and great memories. Trinidad and Tobago is a very beautiful country, from the Caribbean landscapes to the food, not to mention its people, who are so friendly and hospitable. "
Solarte said he and other Region coordinators, Romina Portas of ConocoPhilips and Roderick Perez of Pacific Rubiales greatly appreciated the support provided by BG group and the GSTT.
“It is always challenging to organize the event in a different place but they made us feel like home, providing not only help with the logistics but also showing us the city and the amazing culture of Trinidad and its surroundings,” he said.
The day following the IBA competition, the GSTT staff led an optional field trip to Maracas Bay and Las Cuevas Beach.
For Braña, participating in the IBA provides numerous benefits to participants, including improved teamwork skills and real-world industry experience.
“One of the most important aspects was the teamwork, since the scale of the project demands working together. It was wonderful to see how communication, group dynamics, coexistence, tolerance and respect among us grew as the project developed, and how we managed to appreciate and value the skills that each member brought to the team,” she said. “Without a doubt, the most valuable part of this educational program is experiencing how to develop a career in the oil industry. I learned not only about how the exploration phase works from start to finish, but also about other areas of geosciences.”
The Simon Bolivar University team will represent the Latin America Region at the Global IBA Competition held in Denver, Colorado May 29-30.
Simon Bolivar faculty Advisor Sary Zambrano said that traveling to the United States is a great joy for the team.
"Going to the United States to compete represents a great joy for us. It demonstrates that all the hours, effort and dedication given to the development of the project generated a great result, representing not only the University or Venezuela, but also Latin America. It is a great honor and responsibility," she said.
Representing Venezuela, a country often named for its recent political and economic difficulties, provided an added bonus for the Simon Bolivar team, Zambrano said.
"For our university, this victory represents hope, welcome news in very difficult times. As everyone knows, the Venezuelan situation has affected us in different aspects, particularly in academia, where there is a large flight of human capital. But it is rewarding to know that we still have students and teachers who are willing to fight, transcend barriers and to make a good name for our country and our University. I know many of us will end up leaving the country anyway, but I have no doubt that in our minds and hearts is the desire to return and encourage new generations," she said.
Congratulations to all the 2015 Latin America Region Participants!
Universidad de Buenos Aires
Universidad Nacional La Plata
Universidade do Estado Rio de Janeiro
- Universidade Federal Fluminense;
Universidade Federal do Sergipe
Universidad de los Andes
Universidad Industrial de Santander
Universidad Nacional de Colombia – Bogotá)
Universidad Nacional de Colombia – Medellín
Universidad Pedagógica y Tecnológica de Colombia - Colombia
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
- Universidad Nacional de Ingeniería
Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos
Universidad Nacional San Antonio de Abad
Universidad Central de Venezuela
Universidad Simon Bolívar