Zion Oil & Gas, Inc. announced last week that it had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Turkish drilling contractor Aladdin Middle East Ltd. to purchase AME’s 2,000 horsepower drilling rig (currently located at Zion’s Ma’anit-Rehoboth #2 wellsite, in Israel). The proposed new company, Zion Drilling, Inc. (a subsidiary of Zion Oil & Gas, Inc.), will own and operate the drilling rig in Israel.
What the new company will mean for Zion Oil & Gas is that they will no longer need to rely on third party drilling contractors on future exploration wells. What the new company will mean for the State of Israel, now experiencing a gas and oil exploration boom, is that a rig, twice the size as has ever operated onshore in Israel, will now be permanently ‘in-country’ and possibly available for other (besides Zion Oil & Gas) Israeli exploration efforts. And that the rig will be owned and controlled by a company solely invested on Israeli oil and gas exploration.
During Zion’s drilling of the Ma’anit #1 well in 2005 operations were frustrated by the rig contracted for project. The Israeli owned 1,000 horsepower Ideco Super 7-11 (at that time the biggest in the country) just wasn’t up to the task of drilling to Zion’s estimated 18,000 foot Permian depth. Fearing they would lose the hole due to mechanical problems, Zion stopped drilling the Ma’anit #1 at 15,842 feet. Although they tested several zones above 15,842, noen produced commercial quantities of oil or gas. The well was abandoned and Zion went on the hunt for a rig capable of drilling to a depth greater than 18,000 feet.
After a year of searching, they discovered a rig owned by Aladdin Middle East in Turkey. The rig required refurbishment and transport to Israel, but at 2,000 horsepower it had the mechanical ability to drill beyond 18,000 feet. Zion brought the rig to Israel in the spring of 2009 and immediately began drilling the Ma’anit-Rehoboth #2. In October of 2009 the AME rig was moved to Zion’s Asher license to begin the Elijah #3 well. Then in February of this year, Zion moved the rig back to the Ma’anit-Rehoboth #2 site to conduct completion testing. Zion’s next well, the Ma’anit-Joseph #3, will be in close proximity to the Ma’anit-Rehoboth #2.
Zion Drilling will purchase AME’s drilling rig for an initial payment of US$ 7 million and a series of US$ 1 million additional payments that are anticipated to coincide with our drilling seven additional wells in Israel over the next few years. As the funds for the purchase of the rig are to be provided by Zion Oil & Gas, our plans are subject to a number of events, including due diligence, the raising of additional capital and the establishment of Zion Drilling.
Zion currently has seven new exploration wells planned and the establishment of a new drilling subsidiary signals not only a long term stability and commitment in Zion’s exploration efforts, but a substantial move forward in Israel’s deep onshore exploration capability and security.
Zion CEO Richard Rinberg’s comment as he announced plans of the new drilling venture speaks not only for Zion’s intention for future oil and gas exploration but can reasonably express the nation of Israel’s oil and gas exploration future as well: “We have both the patience and the firm resolve… and now, we expect to soon have the right tool to finish the job – a 2,000 Horsepower drilling rig in Israel on a permanent basis.”