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KU Team Wins 3rd Place in Imperial Barrel Award

April 5, 2021

A team of students from Khalifa University has won third place, beating out five other teams, at the Middle East Imperial Barrel Award Program 2021, a joint program of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) and the AAPG Foundation. It is an annual prospective basin evaluation competition for geoscience and engineering students from different universities around the world. 


This year, five KU students participated in the competition, including:


  • Noura Naji Alzaabi, BSc in Petroleum Geosciences student from the UAE
  • Omar Al Attas, BSc in Petroleum Geosciences student from the UAE
  • Ali Al Sabbagh, BSc in Petroleum Engineering student  from the UAE
  • Sara Abd El-Samad Salem, MSc in Petroleum Geosciences student from Egypt
  • Alejandro Diaz Acosta, MSc in Petroleum Geosciences student from Mexico


The team faculty advisor was Dr. Mohammad Alsuwaidi, Assistant Professor of Earth Sciences.


The students underwent an eight-week intensive program where they worked as exploration geologists and analyzed a large dataset — including geology, geophysics, land, production infrastructure, and other relevant materials —  in order to evaluate the hydrocarbon potential of a prospective sedimentary basin


“The Imperial Barrel Award organized by the AAPG is a great opportunity for our students to use their skills in Petroleum Geosciences and Petroleum Engineering to work on an actual hydrocarbon exploration project. They were provided with geosciences data including seismic, well logs, production data, and other data related to a hydrocarbon prospect. They spent eight weeks studying, analyzing, and integrating all data to present their recommendations to a panel of judges (who acted like investors) to develop the prospect. Such projects usually are conducted by experts in exploration teams in oil and gas companies over many months/years. This is a great opportunity for students to learn and understand how to evaluate and assess petroleum prospects,” explained Dr. Alsuwaidi.


Alejandro Diaz Acosta reflected on his experience: “The AAPG Imperial Barrel Award competition was a tremendous amount of work that allowed me to broaden my industry network, develop my geological evaluation skills and collaborate with great people. I appreciate the ambition of everyone involved in this wonderful experience.”


Ali Al Sabbagh expressed a similar sentiment: “It was a great experience working with a diverse team, with different backgrounds, majors and academic levels to achieve a single common goal. This competition helps students apply the theoretical knowledge into real life practical projects. Also, I believe it is important for students to not restrict themselves to a certain major or discipline, and this competition gave us an opportunity to learn a broader range of knowledge and skills.”


More information about the competition is available at


Erica Solomon
Senior Publication Specialist
5 April 2021