Mariano Parente

He obtained my Master’s degree in Geology at the University of Naples (Italy) in 1986, and my PhD degree in Sedimentary geology at the same University in 1993, with a research project on the micropaleontology, biostratigraphy and facies of the Upper Cretaceous-Oligocene shallow-water carbonates of the Apulian Platform margin, supervised by Prof. P. de Castro. He moved to the University of Basilicata (Italy), where he worked for 4 years (1994-1997) as a lecturer in Geology. He started collaborating with Enterprise oil E/P, preparing a review on the stratigraphy and facies of the Apulian Platform and adjoining basin, based on surface and subsurface data. His collaborations with E/P companies have focused mainly on the stratigraphy and facies of carbonate reservoirs and on their control on porosity and permeability of fractured carbonate reservoirs.


Augusto Maresca, is a master’s student of the course of Geology and Applied Geology at the University of Naples «Federico II», specialization in the Structural Geology curriculum. he is working on the study of the breccia body (Mass Transport Deposit) on the top of the ridge of Monte Fatio, Sorrento Peninsula. He was the captain of Federico Secondo at IBA 2021.


She is currently graduating in APPLIED GEOLOGY . She attended her Bsc in Geological Science at the University of Naples Federico II (2016/2019). She was a member of the team at IBA 2021.


Mr. Muhammad Awais is a PhD student in Department of Earth, Environmental & Resources Sciences, University of Naples Federico II, Italy. He received a Master of Science (MSc) in Geology from National Centre of Excellence in Geology, University of Peshawar (Pisciawar), Pakistan and a Bachelor of Science (4-years) in Geology with distinction (3rd position) from Department of Geology, University of Peshawar, Pakistan.  


He is a master’s student of the course of Geology and Applied Geology at the University of Naples«Federico II», specialization in the Geophysics curriculum. Currently in thesis, he is working on the tectono-magmatic and geophysics characterization of Pine Island, one of the largest yet least understood rift systems on Earth, in the West Antartic Ryft System. Bachelor’sdegree in GeologicalS ciences acquired in 2018 with a thesis in Electromagnetic investigations(FDEM) at the Heraion site (Mouthof SeleRiver) (SA). He belongs to SEG student Chapter of Naples.


He is a student graduated in Geological Sciences at the university of Naples Federico Secondo, 110 cum laude. Currently graduating in Geology and Applied Geology at the university Federico Secondo di Napoli. His current thesis work is based on the study of the gravimetric field of Mercury and on the application of depth estimation and inversion methods, to identify the crustal structure of the planet. He has been a member of the board of the SEG student Chapter of Naples since 2020.


He is actually an Associate professor in subsurface and marine geology at the University Federico Secondo di Napoli:

  • Honorary senior lecturer at University of Aberdeen;
  • Seismic interpreter with 12+ years experience specializing in advanced 2D/3D seismic interpretations and image processing techniques and structural geology;
  • Research activities, consultancy and/or collaboration with ffA, Taqa Bratani, CGG, PGS, BG, SHELL;

Current research in:

  • Pre-salt exploration and rift structures (Campos Basin, Mucuri Basin, Tanzani and Lebanon offshore) since 2013 with UFRGS .
  • Subsurface fault characterization (in collaboration with Stavanger University) , Fluid pathway & seal bypass structures (using time lapses data, CO2 Storage sleipner Field; Loyal Field)
  • Deep water structure and density current deposits (Niger Delta, Ceara, Potuigar basin, offshore Lebanon).

Peter is currently working as a consultant on several field development and exploration projects across North Africa and the Mediterranean, after a varied career in technical and general management positions with a range of E&P companies. He still fascinated by the geoscience of hydrcarbon exploitation, so am enjoying being back in roles with a primarily technical focus. He is also getting interested in carbon capture and looking to develop projects in that area.

He is part of the Strata GeoResearch team providing consultancy and training servics on exploitation of carbonate petroelum systems.

He worked for important Oil and Gas Company:

  • BP: interpretation Geophysicsist
  • Shell Malaysia: Exploration Team Leadear
  • Petroceltic Italia: Managing Director
  • Upstream E&P Advisor.

Maurizio has been working for Shell since 2001. He graduated in Aerospace Engineering at University Sapienza di Roma in 1987. He works actually as Petrophysicist Leader at Shell Italia.


Alessandro is Full Professor in Sedimentary Geology. He got a Master at Paris VI and a PhD at Federico II University. His researches have been centered on facies and diagenesis of carbonate rocks, particularly dolomitizations of Mesozoic successions of Southern Italy and Sardinia, as well as regional distribution of microbial bioconstructions during the Late Triassic. These researches have been also applied in industrial projects, using field analog studies as a tool for subsurface reservoir characterization in Italy, Greece, and Iran. He is presently involved in several projects geological mapping and in projects aiming at providing tools for geoscience teaching in High Schools.


Why did Federico II decide to take part in the initiative?

M.P. – When I came to know of the Imperial Barrel Award it was kind of “eureka”. I had the feeling, along with other colleagues here at the Department, that there was something missing in our teaching program. We were doing reasonably well in teaching our students geology and geophysics and all the other disciplines in geosciences. What was missing was something more practical, more industry-type. Something that could expose the student to real-world situations, to real-world approaches, to geological problem-solving. And especially something that could be worked out as a team-project. We actually had this team project activities in our teaching  program, but they were still run as kind of academic exercises.

So, I started gathering information about the IBA competition. And I got more and more convinced that it was a great opportunity. On the other hand, it was pretty clear that the interpretation of subsurface data was at the core of the exercise and that our students were not trained for that.  So, I talked to my colleague Stefano Mazzoli, now at the University of Camerino but at that time he was a Professor of structural geology here in Naples, and he told me that he could help with this. And he invited David Iacopini, who was at the University of Aberdeen, to give a short course to our PhD and MSc students on seismic interpretation with Petrel. Obviously not enough, but it was a start at least…

So, I decided to be brave, I selected the students for the first team, and we jumped in. This was back in 2018, the beginning of the story.

What is the achievement reached by the team?

M.P – This year we have won the Europe Division semi-final, and we have got the Stoneley medal, that goes to the team that gets the third position in the global final. It was a glorious experience. It is a very challenging competition. A global one, gathering students form top-universities from all over the world. But, to give you the feeling of how extraordinary it was I need to go back to our first participation. Back in 2018 it was quite dramatic. I would say a terrifying experience. I was really impressed by the distance between the work done by my team and the work done by the teams that got the first positions in the Europe semi-final in Prague. I still remember the ranking:   IFP School, University of Stavanger, UniLaSalle. My kids did a pretty good job with basin analysis but then when they came to play based evaluation and prospect evaluation, volumetrics and risking, there was a great distance in terms of quality between their work and the work done by the best teams. Of course, it was not their fault. I knew that my students were as good or even better than the others in terms of talent and attitude. They were simply not ready for that competition.

So, there were two alternatives: to give up or to find a way to do better. And I decided to fight. Every year we learnt something, and we started climbing. We did much better in 2019 but it was still not enough. Then, in 2020 the team got the second position in the Europe semi-final. We were still behind the IFP, that eventually won the global competition, but we did better than Stavanger, UnilaSalle, Manchester, University College of London. It was glorious! And then this years first place in Europe, third position in the global final. this is history now. I must say that we climbed pretty fast, much faster than I expected …


Why did you decide to participate?

A.M. – The Imperial Barrel Award is a competition that was well known to the students of the master’s degree who had chosen to follow the curriculum in geology, which comprises the course of petroleum geology, from which the selection is made to participate. And also, to the students of the curriculum in geophysics, because any previous IBA team included some students form that curriculum. The participation in this competition is equivalent to an internship plus a team project, so it counts for a total of 12 credits in our learning experience. Moreover, our colleagues that participated in the previous editions were telling us that it was really a great experience. So, I decided that I could not miss such an opportunity to participate in a more unique than rare event during my university experience, that for good or for bad, has involved and committed me for a little longer than expected. The members of the previous year’s teams told us how we would work as in a real industrial team, with tight deadlines and meetings with the supervisors, represented by the professors and advisors present here. They were telling how good was this professional training experience, but also how rewarding was working with colleagues, in my case, let me say, friends, with different skillsets and expertise in the various fields of geology, day after day in the same room. This is something that leads to establish a close tie and create situations of personal growth but also, at times, funny ones.

There are various other reasons why I decided to participate in this project, including, of course, the awareness that participation alone, regardless of the result, would have greatly enhanced my curriculum, giving me more opportunities in a post-graduate world. Another thing that personally gave me a huge boost was, certainly, the excellent placement made by the guys who participated last year. After the competition and their success (they got the 2nd position in the European semifinal), they presented their work in an online meeting which was attended by some important personalities from the Italian academic and industrial geological world. I remember that Professor Parente, at the end of the event, said that the following year he would have aimed higher, for victory. There I already felt a minimum of pressure, as I had already decided that I wanted to be part of the team. So, this is my personal story. But not everyone had the same experience on this, so I’ll leave the word to my teammates [Flavia and Muhammad].

F.F. Initially I was not sure I wanted to participate because I knew the difficulties and the commitment necessary to carry on the work. I was also skeptical because the topics covered are quite far from my main studies, which concern engineering geology. In the end I decided to participate driven by curiosity and the desire to learn and have new experiences. Participating in this project was a big challenge for me but I’m happy to have faced it, I think it made me grow a lot from various points of view.

M.A. – During my undergraduate and master studies, I was quite attracted by the world of Exploration & Production companies and I wanted to have a career in the oil and gas industry. So, when my PhD supervisor suggested me to participate in the IBA 2021 and the Academic advisor invited me to join  the team, I was quite excited to have the chance to deal with the activities which a geologist does in any E & P company.

Besides, I thought participation in IBA 2021 would enhance my skills and could make my profile distinctive.

Through IBA 2021, I thought I would integrate with international Italian fellows (which are now my good friends) and experience the duties of geologists and geophysicists involved in any hydrocarbon exploration project.

How did you prepare for the various steps of the competition; how long did it take?

G.F. – The training started a few months earlier, in September, when with some members of the current team, we decided we wanted to live this adventure. We started by attending the course of Petroleum Geology, given by prof Parente. In that course we were given the theoretical foundations, starting from formation of oil and gas, source rocks and reservoir and seal characterization. But we were also introduced to the industrial approach to the study of basin perspectivity, starting from basin analysis and then moving to play-based evaluation and prospect volumetrics and risking.

At the same time, we worked with prof. Iacopini, who trained us in seismic interpretation and well-to seismic-tie tie with the Petrel software. He gave us a training that was fundamental when we received the data on which to carry out our study.

Then, in January, our training became more intense and constant. We began to train with the industrial advisors. with Dr. Giorgioni we had a 3-days full immersion on well log analysis, basic concepts of petrophysics and to use them in an exploration project; while with Dr. Shiner we focused on play-based evaluation and on Risking and Volumetrics by performing a simulation 10 days before the starting of the competition.

When the dataset for the competition was released by AAPG, it was training while working: during the 8 weeks of the project we had to use software for which we had no specific training, such as NeuraLog, to digitize the wells, RockDoc to analyze the well logs Petromod 1D and 2D to generate a source rock model starting from burial and thermal History and Maturity Modeling. On top of this, since the dataset was mainly about delta systems; we were given a quick overview on the sedimentology and sequence stratigraphy of coastal to deltaic sedimentary systems by Prof. Sergio G. Longhitano.

A.M. – From my personal point of view, besides all the training mentioned by my team mate, I can say that I attended other courses in the first semester so that I could improve my knowledge on the various topics concerning the competition, like the course of facies and basin analysis by prof. Kei Ogata, Seismic Exploration Methods by Prof. Pierpaolo Gennaro Bruno. I also attended a course of probability and statistics offered by the engineering department, that was very useful for work on volumetrics and risking.

M.A. – Doing petrophysical analysis using a new software (i.e. RokDoc) for me was quite challenging. But due to the lectures of our Industrial advisor (Giorgioni) and assistance of Mr. Luigi (member of IBA 2020 team of DISTAR, UNINA), we (me, Flavia and Peppe) managed to carefully read the whole well dataset and to perform the petrophysical analysis. 

What are the main difficulties when taking part in a competition of this type?

S.B. – First of all, you have to consider that the competition consists in a simulation of the work being done by geologists and geophysicists of the companies involved in the exploration and production of energy resources, and that it must be carried out in just 8 weeks. Therefore,  clearly the first problem we had to face as a team was the management of the time and the organization of a workflow to be strictly followed in order to carry out all the tasks of the project and to leave the last week to prepare  the final presentation, which puts together all the work done in the previous weeks.

However, the working plan has been subject to changes over the weeks. In some cases, because we were not able to complete the task within the fixed the deadline, in some cases because we had to change the approach or the methodology, following the input of the advisors. The difficulties in performing the best job in the shortest possible time increase in case the team members are not able to solve internal conflicts. That’s why the IBA represents an extraordinary exercise in teamwork, and that’s why this experience was so important to improve our skills.

For such an intense work with such a tight deadline, we had to dedicate ourselves almost exclusively to IBA in the two months of the project. We had to put aside anything else, having to work about 12 hours a day. on top of this, we had to face technical problems related to the use of software, and in some cases, we had to learn how to use some specific tools during the project itself. Other difficulties were related to the availability of data for our study area, as a limited and incomplete quantity of seismic and well data is made available to the team.  Of course, the judges in the final evaluation consider also the approach that each team has used to address and solve these difficulties, especially of working with an incomplete dataset. On the other hand, in our specific case, the area we worked on was the Bight Basin in South Australia, that is a frontier basin in which there is still no oil field in production. This made it even more difficult and complex since there was no producing well to use as an analogue at least at the play level.

From the logistical point of view, we had to also face the problems of online interaction and collaboration with Muhammad, who was still in Pakistan during the first month of the project. In addition, for the final presentation, we had to carefully choose what to show to the commission of all the work and how to show it in the most effective and direct possible way, as the time set for each presentation was only 25 minutes (5 minutes for each team member) and we also had to concentrate on the preparation of answers to any possible question that the judges could ask us in the 10 minutes following the presentation. So, overall the greatest difficulty was certainly the organization and division of teamwork and therefore the decisions to be made every day to manage and optimize times as much as possible, but which inevitably leads to an important improvement in our organizational, decision-making, communication, and teamwork skills that hardly we would have obtained if we had not participated in this competition.

What did you like most about this event?

F.F. – We have certainly learned a lot from this experience, but I think the most interesting thing was to really understand what teamwork means and above all to get an idea of ​​how the world outside the university works. We have grown a lot from the point of view of the knowledge acquired but the most important thing in my opinion is that we have had the opportunity to understand what it means to work with real problems and in a context similar to that within the industry: five different people with different specializations had to work together, merge their knowledge to reach a common goal, each bringing their own contribution within the group. Doing a lot of work in a short time, meeting tight deadlines, and having the ability to solve new problems every day, are situations we are not used to, but which certainly represent a continuous challenge that allows you to overcome your limits and grow more and more. The comparison with the other big universities from all over the world that participated in the competition was also very interesting and stimulating, the more because we were competing with universities that have a tradition in the field of petroleum geology that is certainly older than ours and from which, in my opinion, you can learn a lot. Finally, it was a source of great pride for me to be able to represent Italy in such an important competition. We were the only Italian team, the first one to win the Europe region semifinal, the first one to get the Stoneley medal.

M.A. – This a magnificent academic event which puts students in a rigorous and practical environment and compels them to learn and practice those activities which most of the geologists and geophysicists experience in their professional career when they join the industry.

This is a nice competition which gives an opportunity to students across the world to exercise the duties of any geologist and geophysicist of any E & P company.

A.M. – Another great part of this job was that we could attend the university building with a special permit, despite the pandemic, working late hours also during the weekends, obviously following strict restrictions. We rent a flat nearby living an experience very similar to a college one, I enjoyed this a lot.

How has this experience enriched you?

M.A. – Participating in the AAPG Imperial Barrel Award (IBA) 2021 was a great and memorable experience. This competition enriched me in so many ways, not only scientifically but also professionally. I have gained substantial experience! This recognition (the Stoneley Medal) is a product of a lot of commitment and hard work. As I am a foreign student in Italy, this competition gave me an opportunity to work my Italian teammates and friends, thereby enhanced my communication, interpersonal, presentation, teamwork, and scientific skills. This competition also revealed that time management is the key factor in any competition. Moreover, the IBA 2021 gave me the opportunity to work with highly reputed professors and industrial experts who improved my overall skills in so many ways.

Prof. Mariano Parente’s commitment, dedication, hard work and mentorship was outstanding and is also revealed by the result of IBA 2021. Besides, our industrial advisors (Maurizio Giorgioni and Peter Shiner) and Prof. Dr. David Iacopini are thanked for their suggestions, encouragement, and mentorship from the very beginning to the end of IBA 2021. All the time their guidance raised my intrinsic motivation. Their suggestions motivated us to work hard and to the best of our ability and fortunately we got some good result.

During IBA 2021, I have learnt about the geology of the Bight Basin of Australia and assessed how challenging this frontier basin is, having limited and some specialized petrophysical logs not the commonly used conventional open hole logs. Besides, I learned to work with software like RokDoc.

IBA 2021 has given me a chance to showcase my talent and skills. During this competition, I also made new friends. Participation in IBA 2021 and then winning such recognition increased my confidence level. More significantly, the Stoneley Medal of IBA 2021 has brighten my curriculum vitae. And after all, any challenging competition enhances learning in one way or the other.

S.A. – I would like to add that from a scientific point of view we have been able to improve our technical skills, especially by using  the software that are used by the energy companies, as well as improving our personal skills on teamwork, time management and communication.

I can say that the IBA has also enabled us to create strong ties both between us team members and with the advisors and professors who supported us during the project. Furthermore, it allowed us to create contacts with other students participating in the European and in the Global competition and with professionals working in the exploration industry.

G.B. – I fully agree with what my colleagues Muhammad and Salvatore have said, adding that I will highly recommend this IBA experience to students who want to improve and be prepared to get a position in the energy sector. We made an experience which has prepared us to approaching great companies like ENI or Shell; the ability to face  day by day any kind of difficulties, the ability of solving problem after problem, are highly sought after and appreciated skills from an industrial point of view.


How did you support the students during the competition stages?

D.I. – One of the main challenge of this competition relates to the requirement of putting together skills ranging from geophysics, which is required to understand and manipulate the data released, seismic interpretation, formation evaluation, to the fundamentals of stratigraphy, structural geology and petroleum genesis,  all framed in the right regional context. Therefore, our support as tutors is in the direction of helping them get the right information but also mindset when linking all those different aspects and skills but also helping them to QC the data and solution obtained from the literature.  A lot of support is also required before the competition when we do train them. Setting and designing some course modules with the aim to train the student at understanding manipulating and interpreting the subsurface data is crucial. In fact, the first stage of the competition, the first problem consists in collecting the data and uploading them correctly in a digital platform, which is necessary to visualize and perform the interpretation, prospect analysis and volumetric estimation. So, all the students involved in the team, need to be preliminary trained at understanding the dataset that will be released and then uploading and making use of them when interpreting. This is where our main teaching and tutor effort needs to be spent. Once those aspects and skills are clearly conveyed, the team is ready to tackle and face any sort of problem and issue arising during the competition with more and more confidence. It is in fact their decision and their interpretation that matter, but we need to put them in the right position to understand and use all the methods and software tools necessary to set up the project and perform the interpretation. Getting ready to the challenge is part of the game ad it relies on our ability as lecturers.

What were your greatest moments when sharing your professional experience?

P.S. For me I think the best moments were when I was involved in discussions with the team in which they suddenly realized how to use some of the theoretical concepts that they had learnt in a practical subsurface evaluation context. One place where this happens is around the analysis of traps, when the students realize that they can apply more than one trap model to a structure, so for example a particular structure maybe interpreted as both a four-way dip closed trap and a three way dip and fault dependent trap. These different interpretations of the same structure may have big implications in terms of both the volumetric and risk assessment of a prospect. From my point of view it’s a real privilege to take the students on a journey by asking them questions and to see the “lightbulb” moment when they suddenly realize how they can practically use the concepts that they have been taught.

The other aspect that I have found really rewarding is to watch the growth of the team over the years in which they have participated in the IBA. I’ve been one of the industrial advisors since Napoli started entering the competition and whilst Napoli clearly has a strong geoscience tradition, it doesn’t have much of a petroleum geology culture. Over the years that has really developed to the point now where the students can confidently deal with concepts that would have struck fear into them in the first couple of years. I think this is a real testimony to the work that Mariano and David have pit into petroleum geology and the IBA over the years. It also shows the strong culture of teamwork within the department, with participants from previous years advising and supporting team.

In a period of profound change for the energy industry, what are the innovative elements that have emerged from this competition?

What would be your recommendations to young students who today wish to pursue a technical-scientific, academic, or industrial profession in the energy sector?

M.G. and A.I. – The elements that have emerged from this competition are many but I want to emphasize the importance of rigorous data mining and analysis, and knowledge of the subject. A good solid base is fundamental to any study.
We are slowly coming out of a period characterized by a pandemic unknown in recent times. Before and in the beginning of the pandemic the impression was that anyone could be an expert and give advice without the necessary knowledge, a rigorous approach seems outdated. This competition outlined the importance of preparation, knowledge, curiosity, and a scientific approach to problems. I believe that this understanding will help our students in their future carrier and in their private life. These students are ambassador of rigorous approach and problem solving.
On top of that, the important skills that the students have learned are skills that will never get old: teamwork and common goal. It is a fact that competition is the best and quickest way to learn teamwork: either make it or break it, and this competition certainly MAKE it.
In conclusion, in the future it is unlikely that employees will work in the same subject for 30 years, so it is necessary that Universities teach how to take a balanced view between the so called hard and soft skills. Participating to IBA competition gives plenty of both skills and an injection of self-confidence!