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Natural resources - Unearthing black gold

This lesson provides an overview of where oil comes from, where it can be found and how important it is for daily life as well as raising awareness of declining supply.

“Oil pulses through our daily lives. It is the plastic we touch, the food we eat, and the way we move. Oil powers our cars, chainsaws and tanks…The world’s made by and through oil, however are anything but uniform” (Bridge and Le Billion, 2012).

Key questions and ideas

  • How is oil created?
  • How is oil used?
  • How has oil created a global network?

Subject content areas

  • Locational Knowledge: Understanding of the distribution of oil resources.
  • Place Knowledge: Important places in the global production and distribution of oil.
  • Physical and Human Geography: Formation of oil, energy supply chains, importance of oil; economic activity in the primary sector; importance of natural resources for the economy.
  • Geographical Skills and Fieldwork: Data exercise requires students to map data and interpret spatial patterns.  



Watch these videos about the formation of oil and answer the following questions.

Where do we get oil from?

Oil and gas: million year-old treasures beneath the earth

  • What is oil made from?
  • How is oil formed?
  • How is oil accessed?


Oil is one of the most important natural resources in the world. The world consumes around 14 billion litres of oil each day. Refined oil not only provides energy and transport fuels but is a vital component of many items what we use on a daily basis, such as plastics and other materials. For example, to produce a single sofa may require 60 litres of oil to create it.

Visit the EDF Energy website to learn how oil is used to make energy.

Look at the wordle which includes different products which use oil. Identify 10 items in the wordle that you use in you daily life. Are there any items in the world that you find surprising? 

The distribution of global oil production and consumption are uneven. Download the Oil Data Excel sheet which includes two worksheets: oil production and oil consumption. Use this data to draw a graph which shows oil production and consumption for North America, South and Central America, Europe and Eurasia, The Middle East, Africa, Asia.

Describe the trends that are shown in your graph. Can you think of reasons to explain these patterns? Which countries are the most important producers and consumers of oil in each of the regions shown in your graph?

There is a clear imbalance between the countries that produce and consume oil, therefore a global trade network has been established. Download the Oil PPT to see a map of key flows of oil in the trade network. Describe the key movements of oil across the world.

Oil is a fossil fuel, so there is a limited supply. Watch this video to learn about the concept ‘peak oil’ and to understand why oil supplies are a key issue for future global development.

Peak oil debate

  • Why is oil so important?
  • What is happening to the oil supply?
  • What is peak oil?

To understand more about the problems with the global oil supply read this article from the Independent – Warning: Out Supplies are running out fast. Go to the Independent website.

What are the problems with the global oil supplies?

In order to address declining oil supplies in the future, countries will need to use a range of alternative forms of resources to be able to produce enough energy to meet demand. To explore what other forms of energy are used by different countries, alongside oil, visit this energy charting tool. Go to the BP website.

Here you can explore global use of oil, natural gas, coal, nuclear energy, hydroelectricity, biofuels, and other renewables. You can use the information on this website to find out about different forms of energy production. Find out which countries use the most renewable energy sources rather than the finite fossil fuel resources.


This lesson provided an overview of how oil is formed, where it can be found and how important it is for daily life as well as raising awareness of declining supplies. Explain three reasons why oil is important for the world’s population.

Mayor of London

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