According to market research by IBISWorld, a leading business intelligence firm, the total revenues for the oil and gas drilling sector came to $2 trillion in 2017. This sector is composed of companies that explore for, develop, and operate oil and gas fields. It is also sometimes referred to as the oil and gas exploration and production industry, or simply as E&P. Since the 2017 estimates for worldwide gross domestic product range between $75 trillion and $87.5 trillion, the oil and gas drilling sector currently makes up something between 2% and 3% of the global economy.

The industry includes companies that specialize in crude petroleum production, the mining and extraction of oil from shale or sands and the recovery of hydrocarbon liquids. It also includes all natural gas producers and those that recover sulfur from natural gas. It does not include companies that transport, refine or market oil and natural gas. For those companies that perform both included and excluded operations, only the estimated revenues from included activities are counted toward the $2 trillion industry figure.

Emerging economies have driven recent demand for the production of oil and gas. This is particularly true in the extremely populous BRIC nations: Brazil, Russia, India and China. The E&P industry looks to have a bright future on the back of this demand. The nature of oil and gas exploration projects means that the industry relies much more heavily on capital equipment than human labor, so employment is not likely to rise as much as total market capitalization.