Photo credit: Newfield Exploration. 

It's that time of year when oil and gas companies update investors on growth plans for the year ahead. For the most part investors don't give much notice to these updates. But that wasn't the case this year Newfield Exploration (NYSE:NFX), and investors don't like what it has planned for 2014 and beyond. Shareholders were pretty vocal about it, too, selling off the stock after learning about the company's future strategies.

Newfield's updated three-year plan only projects growth of liquids production by a compound annual rate of 20%. That's just not enough for investors when other oil and gas companies are expecting much faster growth rates. For example, Concho Resources (NYSE:CXO) recently announced an accelerated growth plan that will see it double total production by 2016. That works out to about a 25% annualized growth rate over the same three-year period.

Concho Resources, which focuses exclusively in the Permian Basin, simply has a much richer resource position that it can leverage to drive production growth. Newfield Exploration, on the other hand, is planning to invest the most capital in an emerging liquids-rich play in Oklahoma. Furthermore, while Newfield has acreage in the oil-rich Bakken and Eagle Ford, it's not investing as much into those two plays.

Newfield isn't the only company to focus more capital in Oklahoma in 2014. Top Bakken operator Continental Resources (NYSE:CLR) is investing a quarter of its 2014 capital budget in Oklahoma. Continental Resources sees its position there as a key component of its five-year plan to triple production by 2017. That said, Continental is still growing production at an incredibly fast rate. 

One of the reasons Newfield is focusing more of attention on the SCOOP and STACK plays in Oklahoma is because its other positions in the Uinta, Eagle Ford and Bakken are all mainly held by production. That means it doesn't have to drill there in order to maintain its leases. That frees Newfield to focus on what it sees as exciting new plays that can make a big impact for the company in the years to come.

Newfield's plan would result in very strong cash flow growth of about 25% compounded annually. So while some investors might not like the plan, the company is doing what it believes will fuel the best long-term returns. Bottom line, Newfield might not have the best position in the best oil plays, nor is it the fastest growing oil and gas company in America. But it does have a solid position and plans to grow at a decent clip over the next few years. That's not a bad combination for investors looking for a solid energy company for the long term.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.