Students Search for Oil, Make Deals in PetroChallenge

University of Houston Will Host Competition Based on Energy Industry

More than 380 high school students will study seismic surveys, compete for rigs and wheel and deal during the four-day PetroChallenge on the University of Houston campus.

PetroChallenge is a series of educational and competitive events held at schools and universities to develop students’ knowledge of the oil and gas industry and their interest in pursuing educational and professional careers in the industry. The 2015 PetroChallenge will be Jan. 20-23 at the UH Athletic Alumni Center, 3100 Cullen Boulevard.

It uses Schlumberger’s upstream learning simulator OilSim, which allows teams to collaborate and compete to discover and develop hydrocarbons. Competing schools include Energy Institute High School, Milby High School, Westside High School and the Young Women’s College Preparatory Academy in the Houston Independent School District and Southwest High School in Fort Worth.

Ramanan Krishnamoorti, chief energy officer at UH, said the competition is one of a number of innovative projects the University, industry and its advocates use to encourage students to consider a career in the energy workforce.

“The PetroChallenge is fun, but it also mimics the highs and lows of life in the oil patch,” Krishnamoorti said. “It is intended to give students a taste of working for an energy company.” 

The event is sponsored by the Independent Petroleum Association of America/Petroleum Equipment & Services Association (IPAA/PESA) Energy Education Center, Occidental Petroleum Corporation, Schlumberger and UH.

“PetroChallenge provides a unique platform for demonstrating not only the excitement of the oil and natural gas industry, but it also integrates the skills and career information students are learning in the IPAA/PESA high school petroleum academies,” said Barry Russell, president and CEO of IPAA. “This innovative educational competition serves as a powerful tool to stimulate the next generation of talented energy professionals who will drive this industry forward.”

Each student team starts out with a fantasy $200 million budget as it enters a new oil and gas field, competing against other teams to discover viable volumes of oil and gas while minimizing costs and acting in a socially and environmentally responsible way. For the competition, oil is priced at $80 a barrel – realistic, if not quite current market conditions.

“Occidental Petroleum is proud to sponsor PetroChallenge, which provides the impressive Petroleum Academy students who aspire to careers in energy a unique opportunity to experience the day-to-day challenges of running an oil and gas company,” said Glenn Vangolen, Occidental executive vice president for business support. “The simulation is a great tool that encourages students to make socially and environmentally responsible business decisions as they apply their academic and technical knowledge to produce energy economically.”

“Schlumberger is excited to continue its involvement and support of the PetroChallenge program organized by NExT. The oil and gas industry is in ever greater need of bright, enthusiastic minds, and this annual competition is an ideal incubator for such talent,” said Bud DeCoste, Schlumberger vice president for account management. “During the competition, we’ll certainly be watching for potential prospects.”

Due to high student interest, the competition was divided into two parts. Students from Energy Institute High School will participate Jan. 20-21, while those from the other four schools will compete Jan. 22-23.

The winning overall team – chosen by averaging business value and social responsibility points – will take part in the Feb. 7 international competition. That event will be held in London, although the U.S. team, represented by the Texas students, will compete virtually from a hotel conference room in Houston.