Geosciences students stake claim as North America’s top oil prospectors


A group of University of Louisiana at Lafayette geosciences students are the best in North America at determining where to drill for oil.

Savana Anderson, Peyton Dardeau, Margaret Dittman and Abigail Watson placed first during the recent 2023 North America Region competition for the Imperial Barrel Award. Dr. Davide Oppo, an assistant professor in the School of Geosciences, is faculty adviser for the four-student team of graduate and undergraduate students.

As part of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists’ competition, students analyze industry data, making determinations about energy resources and sustainable extraction methods. In winning the North America Region competition against teams from the U.S. and Canada, UL Lafayette’s student prospectors move on to world competition.  

It’s familiar territory for the University’s Imperial Barrel team, which placed second in the world last year and has won the event three times – in 2012, 2014 and 2018. It remains the only team to claim the title of world’s best three times.

The Imperial Barrel Award competition began in 2007. Teams ascertain prospects for a potential oil reservoir, analyzing datasets related to geology, geophysics, land, production infrastructure and other factors. Findings are presented to a panel of industry experts that includes recommendations about promising spots for drilling and places that are unlikely to be productive.

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 Savana Anderson, Peyton Dardeau, Margaret Dittman and Abigail Watson. Submitted photo