Short Course Online

Science - Living Without Oil

The Open University UK

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Crude oil is currently our most important global source of energy. This Science - Living Without Oil course at The Open University UK explores oil’s vital role in the modern world and assesses some of the exciting scientific developments that could lead to sustainable alternatives to oil.

Visit the official programme website for more information


The Science - Living Without Oil course at The Open University UK  is one of a series of 100-hour flexible online courses introducing fascinating topics in science. It allows you to learn about this topic just for interest and enables you to try out a new area of study before you commit yourself to further study. You can register and begin this course at any time and will have at least 6 months to complete it.

What you will study

Crude oil is currently our most important global source of energy. It is vital in the manufacture of many modern materials. But the world’s supply of oil is finite, its price is unstable and our reliance on oil has damaging environmental consequences. Can we sustainably fuel our transport needs with biofuels, electricity or hydrogen? Can we replace the plastics we derive from crude oil with ones made by microorganisms or plants?

By the end of this course you will have developed a range of study skills associated with retrieving and interpreting information and data from a variety of sources, including in the form of tables, charts and graphs, as well as from articles, audio and video material. You will also have engaged with some of the fundamental concepts needed to study chemistry.

Programme Structure

In particular, you should be able to demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of:

  • the chemistry of oil products and their renewable alternatives
  • some of the key scientific concepts used in the development of alternative energy sources and biomaterials
  • some of the key social and environmental factors influencing decision-makers in relation to the development of renewable alternatives to oil products.

Key information

Start dates & application deadlines

You can apply for and start this programme anytime.



Academic requirements

We are not aware of any academic requirements for this programme.

Other requirements

General requirements

  • This course does not assume any previous scientific background and teaches the ideas and skills needed as and when they are required.

  • You will meet a wide range of scientific and technological subjects in this course and will have to be prepared to understand some basic science: particularly chemistry but also some physics, biology and geology. You will probably find that you can move faster through the study materials if you have a little basic knowledge of general science, especially chemistry. However all you really need is an interest in the issues involved and in learning more about the underlying science.
  • Mathematically, you should be able to add, subtract, multiply and divide positive and negative numbers and understand the use of brackets in numerical calculations. You will meet numbers expressed as fractions, decimals and using powers (e.g. 103 for 1000). 


Studyportals Tip: Students can search online for independent or external scholarships that can help fund their studies. Check the scholarships to see whether you are eligible to apply. Many scholarships are either merit-based or needs-based.

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Science - Living Without Oil
The Open University UK


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