Photo credit: ConocoPhillips.

America's top independent oil and gas company, ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP) has released its 2014 capital budget. The company plans to spend $16.7 billion to explore for and develop oil and gas around the globe. Let's take a closer look at how its plan will effect investors in the year ahead.

Broad overview
ConocoPhillips' capital budget is broken down into four parts: base maintenance, development drilling programs, major projects, and exploration and appraisal. Each bucket of funding has an important role to play in ConocoPhillips' future. Base maintenance and development drilling both pay fairly immediate dividends for investors. On the other hand, payoffs from funds spent on major projects and exploration and appraisal sometimes aren't realized for years, if at all.

In 2014, ConocoPhillips plans on spending about 13% of its budget on base maintenance capital, 39% on development drilling, 35% on major projects, and the final 13% on exploration and appraisal. Of that spending, it's development drilling that will fuel ConocoPhillips in the year ahead.

2014: North America rises
While ConocoPhillips plans to spend 45% of its total capital abroad in 2014, 90% of its development-focused funding will be spent in North America. The company sees this region adding production of 600,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day, or BOE/d, by 2017.

ConocoPhillips is focused on unconventional opportunities in the Eagle Ford and Bakken, as well as conventional opportunities in the Permian Basin. ConocoPhillips and EOG Resources (NYSE:EOG) are among the few independent oil companies that have positions in all three major oil rich onshore basins in America. The major difference between the two is that while EOG Resources is exceptionally strong in the Eagle Ford, ConocoPhillips is much more diversified across the world. 

Investors next year should keep an eye on ConocoPhillips' renewed focus in Alaska. The state passed the More Alaska Production Act which lowered taxes from oil development in an effort to spur more drilling. ConocoPhillips is one of many producers now taking advantage of the improved fiscal terms as its adding drilling rigs to the state.

In addition, ConocoPhillips will see a production boost out of the Canadian oil sands from Phase E of Christina Lake, a 50% joint venture with Cenovus Energy (NYSE:CVE). There should be a fairly large production boost out of the oil sands in coming years as the Cenovus Energy joint venture expands, with many additional phases of both Christina Lake and Foster Creek expected to come online.

Upside from abroad
Investors should also keep an eye on what's happening abroad in 2014. ConocoPhillips will ramp up production in both Europe and the Asia-Pacific. In addition, the company projects to have 50,000 BOE/d in Libya. If Libya becomes a trouble spot again, it could affect the company's oil and gas output in the region and cause ConocoPhillips to miss its 2014 guidance.

In Europe, ConocoPhillips is ramping up the Ekofisk South project in Norway and Jasmine in the U.K.. Both of those projects started production late this year. Investors should also monitor the progress of the Eldfisk II project, also in Norway, as it is following right behind Ekofisk and should begin producing in 2015. Together those two projects will add 60,000 BOE/d of production. Meanwhile, Jasmine should produce about 40,000 BOE/d.

Finally, ConocoPhillips has a few projects coming online in the Asia-Pacific region, ramping up production next year of the Siakap North-Petai and Gumusut operations.

Investor takeaway
ConocoPhillips has an exciting mix of projects that should deliver growth in 2014 and beyond. Moreover, the company's 2014 capital plan puts it right on pace to deliver on its targets to grow production and margins by 3%-5% annually through 2017. That's setting investors up for a very solid year.