Overwhelmed by the available chemistry resources? Looking for new chemistry teaching ideas? Elementary Articles is the place for chemistry, education, and everything else.

Elementary Articles is the official blog for the RSC's Learn Chemistry – your home for chemistry education resources and activities.

Black Gold

We've all been there - your students have just done their C1a exam and then the timetable means they have to go straight into a chemistry lesson next - THE INJUSTICE OF IT!

Well I have a remedy that will get them doing exactly what you want them to be doing whilst they think they're just being let play games for the lesson - this is oilstrike...
You can also get to it by clicking through from the resources link on the talk chemistry homepage - it's under online resources. I missed this the first time around and was actually introduced to it by Jon Hale, one of the best chemistry PGCE students I've ever worked with, who now works down in Jersey (no offense to the rest of you!)
Oilstrike is an onine game in which your objective is to get as rich as possible by indulging the rampant capitalist in you and plundering Earth's natural resournces - sucking every last drop of oil out her! It's a game that you'll get a lot further on if you're prepared to get some correct answers to the questions you're asked along the way and read a little bit around the site to find out how the petroleum business ticks.


At first you're presented with a map - you get to chose where you want to go prospecting with basic infomation on the political and environmental sensitivity of the area. Disasters can cost dearly and you only get a certain number of failures before the game calls your Deep Water Horizon! The bloodied corpses of the war-wounded pile up while you remain indifferent, sat on your throne of power (I must however confess that I was a little relieved to find in my version of the game that there was no oil to be found under the Galapagos).
Once you've selected an area, you must first survey, then choose and build your extraction methods and logistics at increasing cost (although getting the correct answer to a question really helps bring down the costs).


I usually run this activity in the first lesson after my students' AQA C1a exam as it gives the illusion that they're getting an easy time of it, they've done enough on hydrocarbons to get most of the questions but they haven't done anything on cracking or plastics so those who are prepared to go look up answers tend to be rewarded and it introduces the next part of C1b nicely where we go on to do cracking and plastics.

As an activity it works really well with all abilities and is really good at engaging the whole class. I'll often keep a rolling total of the richest person in the class going to keep them motivated.
See if you can beat me .. shouldn't be hard!

In order to milk as much money out of the game, it's not obvious but you can actually prospect in multiple areas for a given month (as long as your cashflow holds out) - you need to exit back to the map rather than proceeding as it suggests to the refinery. This does however significantly increase game-play time and you'll be unlikely to get everyone finished in a lesson.
Every year, I hear of students carrying on at home and coming back to tell me about their improved score. Give it a try - your students will love it!
Posted by Declan Fleming on Jun 3, 2011 11:35 AM Europe/London

Share this |

Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to Linked More...

Leave a comment?

You must be signed in to leave a comment on MyRSC blogs.

Register free for an account at http://my.rsc.org/registration.