University of Houston Hosts PetroChallenge

January 5, 2010 at 1:32 am Leave a comment

Hundreds of high school and university students will participate in PetroChallenge 2010, a computer simulation competition taking place at the University of Houston’s College of Technology. High school students will compete Jan. 9-10 and university students Jan. 11-12. Past competitors have described the event as “an intense treasure hunt.”

            Each student team forms a petroleum exploration company sent on a virtual mission to remote islands that have invited companies to begin exploration. Each team has a $200 million budget to find commercially viable volumes of oil and gas. Students learn basic geology and form strategic partnerships with other teams to drill exploration and appraisal wells.

            The high school PetroChallenge teams will consist of students from each of the three IPAA (Independent Petroleum Association of America) energy academy schools: Milby High School, Lamar High School and Westside Engineering and Geosciences Academy. Similarly, the university level PetroChallenge teams will be comprised of students from different colleges, each discipline bringing its particular strengths to the exercise. The students will face the challenges, opportunities and dilemmas of a real exploration team. Tasks include:

  • Finding basins by using magnetic/gravimetric surveys;
  • Prospecting by using 2D seismic, common risk segment maps and spawning ground maps;
  • Partnering, using 2D seismic and 3D seismic maps;
  • Ordering rigs from a catalog of available equipment;
  • Selecting services by consulting a provider track record;
  • Selecting a drilling location by using 3D seismic and environmental impact assessment surveys.

During this process, students gain insight into the risks and challenges of petroleum exploration. In each task, teams are expected to budget wisely, review purchased scientific data and oilfield information, discuss options and submit the decisions to the simulation. A real-time scoreboard will keep the competitors energized and focused on making well-informed decisions.

            Simprentis, the software company that developed the program, saw a demand for industry-based educational events that would allow students to explore potential careers. PetroChallenge events have been held since 2004, when 600 students from five countries (Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Faroe Islands and Scotland) participated simultaneously.

            Jack Christiansen, director of the Petroleum Technology Initiative at the College of Technology and organizer of the competition, described the purpose of the event: “Students who participate in PetroChallenge 2010 will finish with a greater understanding of technological and scientific developments in the oil and gas industry. Based on a preliminary trial, we believe that this event will provide students with the closest experience possible, in an academic setting, of working in the oil and gas industry in the exploration and production phase.”

            Doris Richardson, director of the IPAA Education Center and coordinator of the high school competition, is equally enthusiastic. “The PetroChallenge two-day competition is the perfect vehicle to reinforce curriculum being taught in our energy academies,” she said. “It will provide our students with an opportunity to integrate classroom curricula, understand and solve complex industry challenges, and collaborate as a team.”

            Both the high school and university PetroChallenge events will take place in the College of Technology’s state-of-the-art computer labs. A training session for facilitators precedes the competitions. Participation in the event is free to all students.


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