Bartlesville-Ponca City jobs to be preserved in Oklahoma despite merger

Friday, May 3rd 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

It appears two Oklahoma communities will survive a merger of Conoco Inc. and Phillips Petroleum Co. with few job cuts, while some out-of-state layoffs will occur.

Bartlesville-based Phillips and Houston-based Conoco Inc. announced in November that the two oil companies would merge and have headquarters in Houston. The deal is expected to be completed by the end of 2003.

Staffing plans released by the companies Friday indicate the 2,400-person Phillips workforce in Bartlesville will not be cut. It's not certain how many of the 1,900 Conoco employees in Ponca City will be retained, though the refinery and research and development operations there will continue, easing fears of major job cuts.

The companies said some job cuts would occur in Houston and in Tempe, Ariz., but did not specify how many.

``We always said from the very beginning of the announcement, we would maintain a significant presence in Bartlesville,'' said Phillips spokeswoman Kristi DesJarlais. ``I think that this announcement is proof that the intention has been made good.''

Pam Dunlap, president of the Bartlesville Chamber of Commerce, said residents were thrilled with the news that job cuts would be avoided.

``We felt confident they would work diligently with us because they had committed to minimize any impact of job changes on our community,'' she said.

Bartlesville will now be home to ConocoPhillips' global information technology center, global financial services and human resources support organizations. In addition, research and development activities currently performed in Bartlesville will remain there.

Chevron Phillips Chemical Company also plans to retain the current technology activities performed in Bartlesville.

In Ponca City, Mayor Tom Leonard said the town is glad to keep the refinery open and the research and development operations going.

Conoco recently announced a $27 million project to expand its refinery and anticipates another major investment to meet new clean-air standards for fuel.

The company said it would boost the Ponca City refinery's capacity by 6,000 barrels of oil a day in a project that should be completed by September 2003.

Leonard said the research and development facility has grown recently into one of the larger operations.

But he said it appears other divisions of Conoco based in Ponca City, such as the credit card operations, may be on the move.

``If that's the case, we are very interested in knowing what kind of corresponding offsets there are going to be,'' he said.

ConocoPhillips will be the nation's third-largest oil and gas company in terms of production and the sixth-largest investor-owned oil company worldwide.

The company would control or have stakes in 19 refineries worldwide with a capacity of 2.6 million barrels a day. It would be the United States' top refiner and would be behind 17,000 U.S. gas stations flagged by the respective corporate names along with the Circle K and 76 brands.

Joint oil reserves of the new supermajor would be about 8.7 billion barrels. The companies estimate the deal will save them $750 million annually once redundancies and an undetermined number of workers are cut.