Contractors lost their jobs due to Shell's impending departure

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Shell Oil’s departure will have an unknown impact on the Northwest Colorado community. But one known result is that Colorado Highway 317 resurfacing will be halted indefinitely.

“From what I know, the 6 miles of road that has been completed is all they’re doing,” said Roy Tipton, director of developmental services for Moffat County.

At least six people lost work because the project was axed, said Carol Talbot, who works with Your Way Safety & Sign Supply. Talbot was one of the contractors working on Colo. 317 and she said it took her two weeks to find out that she didn’t have a job as a flagger with Shell anymore.

“It was really hard to get an answer from anybody,” she said. “Nobody was communicating with anybody — especially Shell.”

The Colo. 317 project was planned in two stages. Phase One lasted from May 21 to July 24. Talbot said when the first phase was completed, her team took a week off, but that week turned into two, and she didn’t know what to do. She had looked forward to another two months of contract work with the oil company.

She had to reach out to Shell to get any information.

“We had to call a Shell representative,” she said.

Carolyn Tucker, Shell’s Rocky Mountain Region spokeswoman, said they had notified the primary contractor for the Colo. 317 project, Connell Resources, that they would be leaving.

“The work schedule was communicated to the contractor,” she said.

The fault of miscommunication would be with the contractors, Tucker said.

“We did notify the contractor,” she said. “If there are issues along those lines, the project managers can work that out.”

Regardless, Talbot said the two weeks she had to wait before finding out that Shell was leaving was financially stressful for her and her co-workers.

“I’m sitting there not making money,” she said. “I have bills to pay.”

Shell being in Northwest Colorado was a boost to the economy, and the positives outweighed the negatives of them leaving, said Eric Marsh, operations manager for Connell Resources in Steamboat.

“There wasn’t a whole lot of work in this valley until they came,” he said. “It was a great opportunity to work with someone different.”

The work that had been done on the highway was beneficial to the community because it allows for year-round traffic and makes the assets more valuable said Jeff Comstock, director of the Moffat County department of natural resources.

“It was an improvement for the oil company and an improvement for the locals,” he said.

Tucker emphasized Shell’s goal to be a community partner.

“I think we’ve tried to be a good part of the community with the work on 317,” she said. “It’s unfortunate that this portfolio review has resulted in us marketing the assets.”

Since 6 miles were resurfaced, it still should leave the wells accessible to any future company, Tucker said. Only one well pad is off the unpaved part of Colo. 317, and Shell hasn’t had a problem accessing that well, she said.

“It shouldn’t make a big difference to another operator coming in,” she said. “The majority of wells that were drilled were off the 6 miles improved.”

It is the nature of contract business for plans to change, said Marsh, and he said he was glad to work with Shell. Phase Two, he said, was going to be shorter that Talbot was expecting.

“It’s unfortunate it didn’t go longer, but Phase Two was only going to be another two weeks.”

Phase Two would have lasted 15 to 20 days, Tucker said.

Erin Fenner can be reached at 970-875-1794 or efenner@craigdailypress.com

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