Oil giant Chevron (NYSE:CVX) announced first-quarter earnings before the market opened this morning, reporting earnings of $4.5 billion, or $2.36 per share. That missed analysts' estimate by $0.11 per share. It was also well below the $6.2 billion, or $3.18 per share, the company earned in last year's first quarter.

The company's results took hits from lower prices and volumes for crude oil. Prices were affected by global economic factors, while production volumes were impacted by "weather-related, unplanned downtime," notably at the company's operations in Kazakhstan, according to a Chevron press release. Overall, Chevron's production averaged 2.59 million barrels per day in the quarter, down from the 2.65 million barrels per day the company averaged in the first quarter of 2013. While the company increased production in Nigeria, Angola, and the U.S., that wasn't enough to offset the normal field declines across its portfolio, nor the issues in Kazakhstan.

Chevron continues to move forward with a number of major projects that should yield production growth starting in 2015. The company's Gorgon and Wheatstone projects in Australia, along with Jack/St. Malo and Big Foot in the Gulf of Mexico, are expected to come online over the next year. These projects are expected to play a major role in fueling a 20% production increase for Chevron by 2017, which should drive growing shareholder distributions. 

Matt DiLallo has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Chevron. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.