Noble Energy applies for 4th rig for Noa site

Noble Energy is in advanced talks to lease a rig that is currently in North Africa.

Noble Energy Inc. (NYSE: NBL) has applied to the Ministry of National Infrastructures for a permit to bring a fourth offshore drilling rig to Israel to develop the North Noa natural gas field. The company will operate the rig with its partner in Noa, Delek Group Ltd. (TASE: DLEKG), controlled by Yitzhak Tshuva.

Sources inform ''Globes'' that Noble Energy is in advanced talks to lease a rig that is currently in North Africa, but that an agreement has not yet been signed. The water depth at Noa is less than at Tamar and Leviathan, and therefore requires a less expensive rig.

Leasing a drilling rig costs between $250,000 and $1 million a day, including peripheral services. Development of the North Noa field will cost an estimated $200 million and take one year.

Noble Energy confirmed the negotiations, saying that they were part of the preparations for developing the North Noa field.

The need to bring in another rig arose after Petroleum Supervisor Dr. Michael Gardosh ordered Yam Tethys (owned by Noble Energy and Delek) to develop the North Noa field in order to cover a possible gas shortage between the running out of Yam Tethys and the coming online of Tamar. Gardosh also limited the amount of gas to be supplied from the North Noa field to 1.2 billion cubic meters, in order to prevent extending into the South Noa field, part of which may lie in the marine area of the Gaza Strip.

Delek owns 53% of the Noa field, discovered in 1999, and Noble Energy owns 47%. The Mari B well of Yam Tethys nearby is expected to run dry by 2013.

The new rig will join the fleet of offshore rigs that Noble Energy and its partner are operating in Israel. They include the rig at the Mari B well, in operation since 2004; the Pride North America rig, owned by Pride International Inc., which is due to shortly begin drilling the Leviathan 3 assessment well; and the Sedco Express rig, owned by Transocean Ltd. (NYSE: RIG), which began drilling the development well at Tamar.

A fifth rig is due to arrive in the eastern Mediterranean by the end of the year to drill an exploratory well in Block 12 in Cyprus's exclusive economic zone. Noble Energy has an exploratory license for Block 12, located near Leviathan. An additional rig, scheduled to arrive in 2012, will be positioned near the Mari B rig to transfer gas by pipeline from Tamar to the existing pipeline from Yam Tethys.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on June 14, 2011

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2011

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