Phillips 66 cancels Colorado research center, putting to rest any worry for Bartlesville
BY ROD WALTON World Staff Writer
Saturday, October 27, 2012
10/27/12 at 4:47 AM
Local companies are major players in the thriving industry.
Bartlesville may or may not have dodged an economic bullet, but now it's certain that Phillips 66 will not build a long-planned major research and training center in Colorado, officials confirmed this week.
Integrated oil and gas giant ConocoPhillips split itself into two companies earlier this year - refining and marketing independent Phillips 66 and production-focused ConocoPhillips. Four years ago, the company announced the purchase of 432 acres in Louisville (pronounced "Lewisville"), Colo., to build a renewable energy, research and office facility that could employ up to 7,000 people.
Earlier this week, Louisville officials went public with Phillips 66's intention to sell that land. Phillips 66 received the asset in its split with ConocoPhillips six months ago.
"It's kind of a 'what could have been' story," said Michael Davidson, the Boulder County Business Report writer who covered the announcement.
Louisville's disappointment could be countered by Bartlesville's sigh of relief. Phillips 66 employs close to 2,000 people there, including hundreds at its research center on the west side of the city.
No one at ConocoPhillips or Phillips 66 has ever said publicly that the Louisville plans would be detrimental to Bartlesville. Locally, however, many feared that their piece of the company might be headed to the Rocky Mountains.
Crisis averted, if there ever was one.
"Any time a major employer in the community makes a sizable investment in another location, it generates concerns," said David Wood, president of Bartlesville Development Corp. "The formal announcement that Phillips 66 will be selling the Louisville property puts this issue to rest."
Phillips 66 spokesman Dean Acosta said the Colorado move had no impact on Bartlesville operations and that the research center would remain there. He also confirmed that the company will build a new headquarters building in Houston.
"After careful consideration of the needs of the new company and its employees, Phillips 66 has decided to sell its 432-acre property in Louisville, Colo.," Acosta said in an emailed response. "Phillips 66's predecessor company, ConocoPhillips, purchased the Louisville property in 2008. As a result of the repositioning of ConocoPhillips into two independent energy companies, the Louisville site became an asset of Phillips 66."
The land purchase was big news in 2008, Boulder County reporter Davidson recalled. ConocoPhillips announced it with much fanfare, including a press conference attended by state leaders and company executives.
The nation's third-largest oil and gas company had signed a $5 million research deal with the Colorado Center for Biorefining and Biofuels. ConocoPhillips also planned the site as a global training center and hoped to start construction by this year.
"For the first year, it was all about how huge this was going to be," Davidson said. "Every real-estate project in the area for three years mentioned this as a reason for coming."
But apparently ConocoPhillips wasn't coming so quickly, despite spending tens of millions on the land and in clearing the site. Storage Technology Corp. previously had a campus there.
ConocoPhillips never publicly killed the project but kept delaying aspects of it.
"That was a red flag," Davidson said.
The Colorado plan apparently was originally hatched by then-CEO Jim Mulva and a small group of colleagues who were worried about running out of room in Houston and at the Bartlesville research center, according to the Denver Post.
Mulva retired earlier this year when the company split.
The Bartlesville research center has a long history. Phillips Petroleum Co. had its headquarters in the city from the early 20th century until the merger with Conoco Inc. in 2002.
After the split, Phillips 66 inherited the plastics and research joint venture with Chevron called ChevronPhillips. Phillips 66 also owns and operates pipelines and refineries worldwide.
The company maintained a global services center in Bartlesville and continues those operations beyond the split. ConocoPhillips also employs close to 2,000 people there.
And it looks like the research center is safe and sound for some years to come.
"Without being complacent, indications are that the research center will continue to be a large, high-wage employer in Bartlesville for the foreseeable future," Wood said. "We couldn't be more pleased with that outcome."
ConocoPhillips, Bartlesville and Colorado
2002: Phillips merges with Conoco and moves headquarters to Houston
2008: ConocoPhillips announces plans to build 432-acre renewable energy research campus in Louisville, Colo.
2009: Demolition of StorageTek buildings on site is completed
2010: Louisville Mayor Chuck Sisk tells reporters "Let's get on with it" about ConocoPhillips' plans.
2011: ConocoPhillips announces plans to split itself into two stand-alone, publicly traded corporations.
May 2012: Split completed and Phillips 66 (PSX) begins trading. Louisville assets shifted to PSX.
October: Phillips 66 informs Louisville leaders it is going to sell the land purchased for training center.
Original Print Headline: Phillips 66 no longer building Colorado center
Rod Walton 918-581-8457