Mark Sheaves
College of Liberal Arts & Sciences

KU students win regional oil exploration competition, advance to global final

Fri, 04/14/2017

LAWRENCE – The University of Kansas Petrohawks, a team of geology, geophysics and engineering graduate students, won the regional competition for the Imperial Barrel Award (IBA), an oil exploration competition, for the first time ever last month. 

The Imperial Barrel Award is an annual competition focused on oil and gas exploration. To compete, teams of graduate students from universities around the world are given eight weeks to analyze a real dataset in order to develop drilling prospects. Each team then delivers a 25-minute presentation to a panel of industry experts at one of 12 regional competitions. The winners of each region advance to the final, which takes place at the annual meeting of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG). Information about the IBA competition is available at

This year, the KU Petrohawks won the mid-continent regional Imperial Barrel Award competition in Oklahoma City. They finished above eight other major schools in the region, including the University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University and the University of Arkansas. This was the first time that the KU Petrohawks have won the regional competition. 

As winners of this competition, the Petrohawks won $3,000 in scholarships and advanced to the international final in Houston, April 1, to compete for the Imperial Barrel Award 2017. While they did not win the international competition, won by the University of Houston, they did secure an additional $1,000 for a scholarship. 

The KU Petrohawks are a team of five graduate students. Four of the team are master’s students in the Department of Geology, part of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. They are Alyssa Flotron of Springfield, Missouri; Erich de Zoeten of Southlake, Texas; Keelan Umbarger of Dallas; and John Intfen of Lawrence. The fifth team member is Stanley Thompson of Overland Park, a graduate student working on a master’s degree in petroleum engineering in the School of Engineering. 

Faculty mentors George Tsoflias, associate professor of geology, and Anthony Walton, professor of geology, supervise the team. KU College of Liberal Arts & Sciences alumni Brad Prather and Nathan Geier served as industry mentors for the team.  

“I am very proud of our KU Petrohawks,” said Robert Goldstein, associate dean for the natural sciences and mathematics and Haas Distinguished Professor in the Department of Geology. “Winning the regional competition is a big deal, and the team gave it their all representing KU at the global tournament in Houston.”

Photo: KU Petrohawks team, 2016-17. From left to right: George Tsoflias, Erich de Zoeten, John Intfen, Alyssa Flotron, Stan Thompson, Keelan Umbarger, Anthony Walton.


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