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The “Young Vision Award” Russian-German Contest for students with fresh ideas

The Russian-German student contest Young Vision Award is a joint social initiative of Wintershall and Gazprom International. The two companies decided to organize it in order to bring together young students and experts from Germany and Russia. Our aim is to foster exchange of ideas in the area of oil and gas production and to create an intercultural communication platform.

Every year since 2013 companies select an important task for the oil and gas branch and invite students to present their solutions in order to make oil and gas production more efficient and environmentally friendly. All contributions are carefully examined by an international jury, which is also nominated every year according to the contest task. The authors of the best ideas are invited to the contest finals to present their solutions. The jury decides on the best presentation and awards the winners with an opportunity to experience practical work at an oil and gas production field during the internship provided by the two companies. Moreover, the winner project gets evaluation by one or more international experts.

Winners of the Young Vision Award

A vortex with super powers The winning project of two young researchers in 2016

Two young researchers have won the Young Vision Award, for the smart hydrocyclone they invented in 2016. The students’ idea could help the E&P industry to save a lot of money. Since then the two of them are working on a prototype.

Knowledge. Practice. Future. That’s what’s emblazoned in large letters at the entrance to the Technical University of Freiberg. The students Christoph Bender and Maximilian Käferstein wanted to demonstrate how knowledge and research welded to practice in the oil and gas industry could improve the future. 

They invented an intelligent hydrocyclone that might increase efficiency in drilling wells and slash costs. It won the budding drilling engineers the Young Vision Award 2016. The smart centrifugal separator invented by the Freiberg students was definitely in that category in the view of the jury made up of representatives from Gazprom and Wintershall.

“Merely studying wasn’t enough for us; we wanted to do more. And our invention is really absolutely simple,” says Bender. The hydrocyclone, a cylindrical apparatus, can do two things: It is intended to separate oil and reservoir water in the well during oil production. The oil moves upward and the water returns to the reservoir. “If it works, costs could be cut by 75 percent because the time and effort involved in separating oil and water above ground is eliminated,” says Bender. When a new well is drilled, the filter apparatus can, in a slightly modified configuration, remove troublesome solid
matter, such as sand and rock particles, from the drilling fluid. “The smart hydrocyclone is far more effective in doing that than conventional centrifugal separators. It is automatically controlled and so can always work optimally,” explains Käferstein. Bender and Käferstein are currently developing the “magic box” to control it in cooperation with a Swiss company.


Just studying wasn't enough for us; we wanted to do more

However, so far the intelligent hydrocyclone exists only on paper. The young researchers are searching for an investor who will assume the costs of making a prototype. “That’s the big problem at the moment. Many companies are wary of investing because the price of oil and the profits are low,” the students note. The chance of attracting attention for their idea through winning the Young Vision Award was one of the reasons that they entered the contest.

Their mentor, Professor Moh’d Amro, Director of the Institute of Drilling Engineering and Fluid Mining, also believes the project will be a success. “The smart hydrocyclone is today’s horizontal drilling,” is the professor’s conviction. Drilling horizontal wells was likewise invented in a time of low oil prices and is now standard. “If an investor isn’t found, I’ll take over responsibility for making the prototype,” Amro says. 

Overview of the past Young Vision Awards

The final of the sixth edition of the Young Vision Award was held in 2018 at Montanuniversität Leoben (Austria). For the first time not only Russian and German students entered their projects but also contestants from Austria, Croatia and India. The four teams of finalists presented their projects in Leoben to the international jury and a specialist audience.

"How can we utilize our E&P know-how to create new business opportunities in times of energy transition and decarbonisation?“

Ksenia Sherbakova and Tatiana Kruglikova from the Ordzhonikidze State University of Exploration (Moscow) 

In their work, the two winners developed approaches for environmentally compatible drilling rigs. They can now look forward to not only a company internship at Wintershall and the publication of their project in two trade journals, but also – should a feasibility study by a team of experts be successful – to 50,000 euros worth of project financing by the competition organizers.

Jury members 2018:
Valerii Cholovskii (Gazprom International), Bernd Leonhardt (Wintershall), Wilhelm R. Dominik (Technische Universität Berlin), Jim Herbertson (IPIECA)

This international award particularly recognizes sustainable and efficient technology solutions developed by junior scientists in the field of oil and natural gas production. It was awarded in 2017 for the 5th time already. This year was particularly pleasing: the Young Vision Award saw a record number of entries. The 18 submitted research projects show that interest in the competition is growing steadily. Three evenly matched teams – two from Russia and one from Austria – competed for this year's award in an exciting final held at the Tomsk Polytechnic University.

Innovation in times of low oil prices: surviving the downturn with clever and innovative thinking without compromising safety and environmental protection

Anzhelika Posvyashchennaya and Eldar Urazov, Tomsk Polytechnic University

In their project entitled “"Pretreatment-free monitoring of tracers in oil fields: mobile technology", Anzhelika Posvyaschennaya and Eldar Urasov investigate how to control tracers without the need for equipment. The two winners will be awarded a company internship and the publication of their project in a trade journal.

Jury members 2017:
Thomas Trebst (Gazprom International), Bernd Leonhardt (Wintershall), Jean-Jacques Royer (CNRS, Nancy, France), Domagoj Vulin (University of Zagreb)

This international award pays tribute to particularly sustainable and efficient technology solutions in the field of crude oil and natural gas production and was awarded this year for the 4th time already. Three teams from the universities of Freiberg, Uchta and Clausthal emerged successfully from the last selection round of the competition and were invited to the final. The finalists were then able to present their ideas for evaluation by an international jury at the TU Bergakademie Freiberg.

Present innovative technological ideas for exploration of hydrocarbons with consideration of E&P companies’ environmental responsibility. 

The contestants were requested to: 
- describe a technical task or problem within the industry
- introduce a new idea for exploration of hydrocarbons, including practical work program in case of victory of the team
- explain how the idea increases the overall (industry) environmental responsibility
- evaluate the commitment to occupational and industrial safety as well as the creative component of the project
- evaluate the “speed of changes”, i.e. how soon the design effect will contribute to economic and operations
- introduce the team, describe the team roles and evaluate the way the idea may be useful for others.

Maximilian Käferstein and Christoph Bender, TU Bergakademie Freiberg

In their project Maximilian Käferstein and Christoph Bender investigate how to improve the quality of cleaning drilling fluids using intelligent hydrocyclones. The two winners can now look forward to a company internship as well as the publication of their ideas in the trade magazine “Oil & Gas Journal Russia”.

Jury members 2016:
Dr. Valerii Cholovskii (Gazprom International), Assoc. Prof. Daria Karasalihović Sedlar (University of Zagreb), Dr. Valerie Bosse (Wintershall), Jean-Jacques Royer (CNRS, Nancy, France)

Other members 2016 (inter alia):
Thilo Wieland, Member of the Board of Executive Directors Wintershall Holding GmbH
Andrey Fik, Managing Director Gazprom EP International B.V.

In 2015 three teams made it through the screening round and were invited to the Finals in St. Petersburg. The final round took place at the National University for Mineral Resources (Mining University) and attracted great attention of students and teaching staff. The finals was opened with a lecture on sustainability. The contestants and guests could also assist the chemical experiments conducted by experts from BASF Russia and CIS and demonstrate their knowledge in the E&P Quiz.

How can companies reduce the environmental risks associated with oil and gas production through improving equipment, systems, processes and technologies?

Winner Project:
Roman Lyubimenko and Aleksandr Zakolodkin

Phenolic wastewater treatment using combined method of absorption and wet air oxidation at petrochemical plant of LLC “SIBUR-Kstovo”

Roman and Aleksandr made their Award tour in Germany. They presented their research in the head office in Kassel, exchanged experiences with colleagues and visited production planes in Landau and Barnstorf.

An extra Audience Choice Award of 2015 was given to Aleksandr Danilov and Ivan Sverchkov from Mining University.

Jury Members 2015:
Prof. Dr. Herbert Hoffstätter (Mountain University Leoben); Dr. Andreas Kicherer (BASF SE); Dr. Valerii Cholovskii (Gazprom International); Dr. Bernd Leonhardt (Wintershall)

In 2014 the Young Vision Award was announced officially for the first time. Twelve teams from Russia and Germany participated in the first screening round; four of them were invited to the Final and presented their ideas to the international jury. Students from the universities of Archangelsk, Krasnoyarsk and Freiberg could exchange ideas, get an inside view into the work of the E&P companies and benefit from a lecture by the contest jury members.

How can we produce more oil and gas in a “green” (more environmentally friendly) way?

Winner Project:

Martin Müller, TU Bergakademie Freiberg

The University of Resources: Using the Brinell Hardness Test on shale formation samples for advanced investigation in the field of hydraulic stimulation.

The Award tour of Martin Müller included visiting the Head Office of Gazprom International in Moscow, Gubkin Russian State Oil and Gas University, underground gas storage facilities OOO “Gazprom PHG” in Kaluga and AO «Achimgaz», the joint venture of Wintershall and ООО «Gazprom Dobycha Urengoy» in Siberia.

Jury Members 2014:
Prof. Ann Muggeridge (Imperial College, London); Prof. Pacelli L. J. Zitha (Delft University of Technology); Dr. Valerii Cholovskii (Gazprom International); Dr. Bernd Leonhardt (Wintershall)

In 2013 the first round of Young Vision Award took place. The companies invited students from four Russian and German Universities to present their innovative ideas. As a result, teams from the universities of Tomsk, Moscow and Clausthal presented their projects at the Exhibition RAO/CIS Offshore 2013.

What are the main environmental impacts and risks during offshore exploration and production in sensitive areas? How can these negative effects be mitigated? Please describe at least one main environmental aspect in detail and develop a sustainable concept to prevent environmental damages in oil and gas production offshore.

Winner Project:

Olga Blokhina, Darya Rozhkova und Irina Hadkevich, Tomsk Polytechnic University

Environmental impact of oil extraction on the Arctic shelf

Olga, Darya and Irina were granted an Award trip to Germany in order to get familiar with the E&P activities of Wintershall. To the students the contest was an important professional experience:

“After our success with the Young Vision Award we became more self-confident and applied for other contests and conferences. After a successful presentation in Norway and Kazakhstan our project received support from a global oil and gas company”.

Jury Members 2013:
Knut Am (Norway); Steinar Njå (Norwegian Petroleum Directorate); Roman Kuznezov (Gazprom International); Dr. Bernd Leonhardt (Wintershall)