For a modern nation Oil and gas exploration and production is very important. Exploration and production companies search for oil and gas wells and specialize in pulling raw material from the earth to create sources of energy. There are many hundreds of such companies listed on exchanges across the world, so it important for potential investors to be able to distinguish between which oil and gas benchmarks are most useful for tracking the performance of the industry.

To explore oil and gas in a very economical way the oil companies follow some benchmarking index. One popular oil and gas drilling benchmark is the S&P Oil & Gas Exploration & Production Select Industry Index (XOP). This index collects information about stocks in the Standard & Poor's Total Market Index that are also classified in the Global Industry Classification Standard subcategory for oil and gas exploration and production. This includes companies such as Parsley Energy, Oasis Petroleum, Penn Virginia Corporation and Matador Resources, among others. In order to be included, companies must have a float-adjusted market capitalization above $500 million and a liquidity ratio above 90%; some companies can be listed with market caps between $400 million and $500 million if they have a liquidity ratio above 150%. This index series is equal-weighted, which means that no one individual participant is likely to have too much influence over the group.

Not all oil and gas indexes are the same. Some measure companies that tend to perform upstream activities, such as exploration and production, while others might focus on midstream activities that include transporting and marketing the product. Some companies perform both of these tasks and more, while others focus on just one area.

The Brent Blend marker is considered crucially important to understanding the state of crude oil performance. This marker refers to oil being extracted from four specific areas of the North Sea: Brent, Oseberg, Ekofisk and Forties. Oil from this region tends to be ideal for refining diesel fuels and standard gasoline, and it tends to be easy to transport since the supply is already connected to water.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) tracks its own oil and gas extraction subsector metrics. According to the BLS, this includes activities ranging from "exploration for crude petroleum and natural gas; drilling, completing and equipping wells; operating separators, emulsion breakers, desalting equipment and field gather lines for crude petroleum and natural gas." While not a benchmark index for comparing managers, the data from the BLS is useful for highlighting industry-wide fundamentals. Investors can find measurable information on workforce statistics, prices, workplace trends, earnings and hours.