Oil and gas (fossil fuels)

Where can I find information about oil and gas (fossil fuels)?

Senior Primary

(Years 5-8)

Colour photo of an oil refinery at Port Arthur in Texas showing rocket-shaped structures and lots of pipes.

Image: Oil refinery, Port Arthur, Texas by Carol M. Highsmith on Flickr.

Entry last updated: 12/12/23


Oil and gas are fossil fuels which means they are formed from fossils, which are the remains of animals and plants that lived long ago. Fossil fuels are used around the world as an energy source for heating and cooking, to produce electricity and as petrol in cars. They all contain carbon, soburning them can harm our environment. Fossil fuels cannot be replaced once they get used up and so are called non-renewable resources.

General websites

Here are some websites to help you find information on how fossil fuels are formed, their uses and what the benefits and disadvantages of using fossil fuels are.

Britannica School

Britannica School is an EPIC database that covers lots of different topics. It is put together especially for New Zealand school students and helps to answer questions like this.

  • Select the Middle level, then type the search words 'oil' or ' natural gas' into the search box.

  • Read the articles petroleum (fossil fuel) and natural and manufactured gas. This will give you facts and information on how these fossil fuels are formed, explored and used.

  • You can always select an easier level from the Article Reading Level at the top of the page.

  • Remember to explore the images and videos for more information on this topic.

  • Coal, crude oil, energy, fuel, fossil fuels, air pollution, carbon dioxide, greenhouse effect are some other keywords you can use to find related information on oil and gas.

Tips: Search words, or keywords, are the most important words in our question. Usually it’s better to leave out small words like ‘the’, ‘a’ and ‘of’ and just choose the main ones, eg [oil]. We can always change our keywords or add more if we need to.

Tips: To get to the EPIC resources you may need a password from your school librarian first. Or you can chat with one of our AnyQuestions librarians between 1 and 6 pm Monday to Friday and they will help you online.


This website is written by teachers to help primary school students with their projects, so the information should have useful facts and be at the right level for you.

  • Use the search box at the top of the home page to search for 'fossils fuels'.

  • The page fossil fuels explains what fossil fuels are, their uses, and problems caused by their use.

  • Scroll to the bottom of the page to watch a video about the formation of fossil fuels.

Tips: Some websites have advertisements (or ads) which ask us to buy something or tell us to ‘click here’. It’s best to ignore these ads and focus on the information we’re looking for.


This site has lots of facts on climate changeand energy. If you scroll down to the bottom of the page you can see the site is run by NASA.

Tips: We like sites that are from government or other reputable organisations, because we can trust the information. You can sometimes tell these sites by their web address – they might have .gov or .edu in their address – or by looking at their About us or Contact pages.

UCAR Center for Science Education

This website was created to help school children explore and understand the world.

The Ruler of the world game, includes facts on all types of fuel sources including fossil fuels, biofuels, solar, hydro and geothermal. The goal is to select from the range of energy sources to reduce greenhouse gases.

  • Use the tabs at the top of page to select a fuel type eg coal.

  • Read the Coal Overview on the right side of the page.

  • The tabs below the Overview have more facts about coal like costs, emission, amount of energy obtained and impacts on the environment.

Tips: When you find information online you need to know if the information you've found is up to date or current. Check to see if the page has a date saying when the information was written, published, or updated.

New Zealand websites

These websites have been specially selected as they contain information on the science, discovery and use of oil, gas and coal in New Zealand.

GNS Science

GNS Science has lots of facts about fossil energy in New Zealand Aotearoa, including how oil, gas and coal are formed and how old they are.

To learn where New Zealand's coal fields are:

  • Select the Learning link from the banner at the top of the page.

  • Then select Fossil Energy from the list of Science Topics.

  • Find New Zealand's Sedimentary Basins.

  • Choose the links New Zealand's coal deposits and New Zealand oil & gas fields to find where these fossil fuels are found in New Zealand

Tips: Not sure what a word means? Try using Google as a dictionary. The trick is to type the word 'define' in front of the word you want to define, then select Search. Eg if you wanted to define the word 'sedimentary', your search would be 'define sedimentary'. This searches for all the meanings on the web that define your word.

Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Te Ara is an excellent starting point for all questions about New Zealand Aotearoa. If we scroll down to the bottom of the page we can see that the website belongs to the Ministry for Culture & Heritage, so the information is well-researched and reliable.

  • Go to the section called Earth, Sea and Sky, and and look for Mineral Resources.

  • Here you will find links to Oil and gas and Coal and coal mining explaining how these fossil fuels are formed, and areas like the Māui gas field where they are found and mined.

  • Every story in Te Ara has images, videos and External links and sources that link to other recommended websites.

Tips: Many web pages have links to further information or to other recommended sites. Following these links is a great way to find out more. This searching method is called “pearl growing” because you are picking up pieces of sand to make a beautiful pearl!


There are lots of books about fossil fuels including books on oil, petroleum, gas and coal. Check out your school library or local public library.

Some titles to look for are:

SCIS no: 1980328

Topics covered

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