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UL Geology students the best in the world in petroleum exploration

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For the third time, a team of geosciences graduate students from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette was named the world's best at determining where to drill for oil.

The team of Lauren Martz, Kohl Koppens, Greg Ferguson, Roxanna Vaught-Mijares and Victoria Chevrot, who all pursued master's degrees in geology, placed first in the American Association of Petroleum Geologists' Imperial Barrel Award competition.

The contest included 168 teams representing colleges and universities from around the world. The global finals were held in conjunction with the AAPG Annual Convention and Exhibition in May 2018 in Salt Lake City. San Diego State University finished second, while Pennsylvania State University came in third.

UL Lafayette has fielded a team every year since the Imperial Barrel contest's inception in 2007. It finished first in 2012 and 2014, and its 2018 first-place finish made it the only team to repeat as champions for the third time, a record that stands.

This year's third championship doesn't place the team in exclusive company, said Dr. Carl Richter, Associated Dean of Ray P. Authement College of Sciences. It's more like a private club.

"This team has achieved a level of preeminence that's not likely to be equaled anytime soon. It reflects the quality of students the School of Geosciences attracts and the
strength of our graduate program," Richter said. The team's faculty adviser is Dr. Raphael Gottardi, an assistant professor of geology.

The first-place finish comes with a $20,000 award. The funds will be used for scholarships, equipment and software for future teams.

The AAPG's Imperial Barrel Award Program requires students to determine the viability of a prospective oil reservoir. Our team was assigned Bight Basin in southern Australia. Over eight weeks, they analyzed datasets that included information on the basin's geology, land, geophysics and infrastructure. The team reported its verdict during a 25-minute presentation to industry experts, who selected a winner based on technical quality, clarity and the presentation's originality.

UL Lafayette's team advanced to the international competition after taking first place in the Gulf Coast section competition in March in The Woodlands, Texas. Other regional competitors included teams from the University of New Orleans, which placed second, and the University of Texas at Austin, UT San Antonio, University of Houston, and Stephen F. Austin State, Tulane, Auburn and Rice universities.

Photo caption: From left are Lauren Martz, Greg Ferguson, Victoria Chevrot, Roxanna Vaught-Mijares, Kohl Koppens, and Dr. Gottardi.