AAPG and Excellence

King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals team wins Imperial Barrel Award

Middle East region takes top honors in global geoscience competition.

King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals team wins Imperial Barrel Award

Taking home top honors in this year’s 17th Annual American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) Imperial Barrel Award (IBA) competition was the team from King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM).


The team competed in person, winning the semifinal competition held in Bahrain in February. Seven semifinalist teams advanced from the initial group of 58 teams with 334 individual participants to the global final competition that was held virtually to vie for recognition. 


In the end, it was the KFUPM team that showed its prowess in the subsurface-basin evaluation program that analyzed a data set — geology, geophysics, land, production infrastructure, and other relevant materials — to identify hydrocarbon resources than can be developed sustainably. 


With eight weeks to prepare for the regional competition, teams must work together to complete a technical assessment of the petroleum potential of the basin or area, define key plays, prospects, and risks, and finally make recommendations on future exploration activity based on the technical and economic conditions. 


KFUPM delivered their results in a 25-minute presentation to a panel of industry judges who looked for technical quality, clarity, and originality of their presentation. 


Besides the prestige that comes with being an IBA winner, the top teams receive cash awards for their school. 


Global representation

Almost every country in the world has been represented in the IBA competition, which was founded in 1976 by Imperial College London with AAPG adopting the program concept in 2007, and expanding it to incorporate new technology and real-world data sets. 


Aramco was a diamond sponsor for this year’s IBA with Khalid Alhmoud, geological specialist from Strategic Planning and Optimization, serving as a judge. 


“I was impressed by the high technical competence level of all seven finalists,” said Alhmoud. “So much so that some teams provided a comprehensive evaluation enough to make a decision by the judges to drill a well without requesting further analysis.” 


Alhmoud also commented that the outstanding performance by the teams reflected the level of quality of supervision received from their institutions. 


Mahdi Mutlaq, Ph.D., Saudi Aramco, served as Industry Mentor for the KFUPM team. Aramco Americas’ Gretchen Gillis, senior geological consultant, and AAPG past president, was the 2023 IBA award ceremony guest speaker.


The Middle East region has become one of the most active within AAPG, which is one of the world’s largest professional geological societies with approximately 20,000 members across 129 countries. 


Caption for top photo: This year’s AAPG Imperial Barrel Award winning team from King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM). Aramco was a diamond sponsor for the global geoscience graduate competition. From left are: faculty adviser professor Khalid A. Al-Ramadan, geosciences; Osama Abdrabo, geology M.S. candidate; Talal Al-Uthman, senior B.S. geology major; Sara Kellal, geophysics Ph.D. candidate; and Anas Salisu, geology Ph.D. candidate.


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