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USU Geology Students Regional Champs, Advance to International Finals

Thursday, Mar. 24, 2011

USU geology students, winners Imperial Barrell Award
USU geology students won the American Association of Petroleum Geologists Rocky Mountain Section's Imperial Barrel Award. From left, Lisa Seunarnine, David Richey, Elizabeth Petrie, Mitch Prante, Ryan Sonntag and Rhead Cannon.
drilling plataform in the Barents Sea
In competition, USU students were challenged to solve a real-world oil and gas exploration problem based on data collected from a site in the Barents Sea north of Norway. The team advances to international competition in April.

A Utah State University team of geology students proved their prowess in the first leg of a global competition designed to test on-the-ground knowledge and analytical skills in petroleum geosciences. The regional award added $4,000 to the USU Department of Geology’s student scholarship fund.


Team “Store Blå” (Norwegian for “Big Blue”) received the American Association of Petroleum Geologists Rocky Mountain Section’s Imperial Barrel Award March 19, in Boulder, Colo. Vying with students from around the world, the five-member team advances to the final competition April 8 and 9, in Houston, Texas.


USU graduate students Mitchell Prante, team leader; Lisa Seunarnine and Ryan Sonntag, along with undergraduates Rhead Cannon and David Richey, bested university teams from Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico and Wyoming with their presentation “Highly Prospective Hydrocarbon Accumulations: Southwest Barents Sea.”


The team is advised by doctoral student mentor Elizabeth Petrie, teaching assistant for the team’s petroleum geology class.


Store Blå received their assignment for the competition, which included an authentic geological dataset, from competition organizers Jan. 22. The challenge scenario, set in Norwegian waters, inspired the team name.


“The AAPG organizers presented a formidable oil and gas exploration problem for the students to solve,” says Jim Evans, geology professor and faculty mentor. “The students had a limited amount of time to develop a technical assessment of their assigned study area and prepare recommendations for an industry panel of judges.”


In Houston, the Aggies will compete with five other teams from the United States as well as winning regional teams from Africa, Asia/Pacific, Canada, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East.


“Competitions and project-based teaching efforts are an important way to prepare students for careers in the petroleum industry,” Evans says. “The Imperial Barrel competition is designed for graduate students, but we have outstanding undergraduates on our team as well.”


Evans says the coordinator of the Rocky Mountain regional competition described the judges as “very impressed” with the high quality of the USU team’s presentation and their technical understanding of the data. This is the first time a USU team has entered the Imperial Barrel competition.


“USU faces stiff competition in Houston but I’m confident they will perform well,” he says.


Related links:

USU Department of Geology

USU College of Science


Contact: James “Jim” Evans, 435-797-1267, james.evans@usu.edu

Writer: Mary-Ann Muffoletto, 435-797-3517, maryann.muffoletto@usu.edu

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