Ortadoğu Drilling: Turkey’s leading diamond drilling contractor

October 20, 2022

by Ahmet Zeki Topdemir, Co-Founder, Mehmet Ruhi Akçıl, Co-Founder, and Sarp Ayken, Drilling Manager at Ortadoğu Drilling


Ortadoğu Drilling was established in 1995 with only two drill rigs and the sole purpose of drilling the deep mineral zones of the Anatolian Peninsula in Turkey, exploring the metallic minerals and coal beds of the country, and introducing them into the Turkish economy. Like all developing countries with a significant portion of GDP coming from underground resources, the political strategy in Turkey changed, and a new mining approach allowed for foreign capital investment into the mining industry. Therefore, despite the intention to continue with just a few drill rigs, seven years after the establishment of the company, its fleet exceeded ten rigs. This rapid growth was driven by the demand from investors and international mining companies for high-quality drilling services.

Ortadoğu Drilling needed a trusted partner, thus in 2010 the group company GEO Drilling Machines Manufacturing Ltd. was established. The new company’s primary aim has been to meet the global demand and the most recent requirements of the drilling industry through the collective years of experience from Ortadoğu Drilling. GEO Drilling Machines Manufacturing Ltd. manufactures deep drill rigs with a capacity of 2500 m (8202 ft) of H-size under the brand name ‘GEO’, as well as drill pumps and wireline drilling equipment including drill bits and reaming shells inside an area of 15 000 sqr. meters. Thus, engineers are able to tailor solutions according to the requirements and the characteristics of the drilled formation and maximize the quality of the core samples and penetration rates.

With the GEO brand, the drill fleet grew more, and today Ortadoğu Drilling owns 35 drill rigs, making the company one of the few in the world, capable of manufacturing everything required for drilling operations. Drill rigs and equipment are available for sale both for domestic and international markets.

GEO Drilling Machines Manufacturing Ltd’s manufacturing facility
GEO Drilling Machines Manufacturing Ltd’s manufacturing facility

In 2012, Ortadoğu Drilling decided to become incorporated and strengthen its structure by establishing a board of directors. In this regard, the company included a number of CEOs, drilling and regional managers to its business structure. During 2012, Ortadoğu Drilling also decided to create a separate slim hole drilling division by establishing the Geothermal, Oil & Gas Exploration Division.

Over the 27 years of its history, Ortadoğu Drilling has successfully completed hundreds, closing in on one thousand, surface and underground drilling projects. It is the biggest drilling contractor in Turkey and one of the biggest in the Eurasian Region with an annual drilling capacity of 300 000 m (984 252 ft). The company also offers a full range of geotechnical and hydrogeological drilling services.

Ortadoğu Drilling is also the main drilling contractor for the big international and domestic mining companies in Turkey. Some of the clients include: Eldorado Gold (Tüprag Metal in Turkey), Anagold, Centerra Gold (Oksüt Mining in Turkey), First Quantum Minerals, Teck, Koza Gold Co. (Koza Altın in Turkish), Erdemir (a Turkish iron mining company), and ESAN (a Turkish metal mining company).

Ortadogu Sondaj slim hole drill site
A slim hole drill site.

Special projects: Slim hole drilling

Ortadoğu Drilling is the first and only company conducting slim hole drilling with the purpose of exploring geothermal, natural gas and oil reservoirs in Turkey. With specially manufactured drill rigs that allow for the installation of blow-out preventers in separately designed well heads, Ortadoğu started drilling its first slim hole with the purpose of gradian exploration of geothermal reservoirs in 2010. The hole was completed at 1993 m (6538.71 ft) and became the first slim hole in Turkey. After the completion of the borehole, a temperature gradian (PTS) log was performed and some hydrogeological tests were also carried out.

Following this successful project, the demand for slim hole projects increased, and Ortadoğu started an exploration program for gradian drilling with the Italian company Enel Green Power. A total of ten deep holes were drilled in Turkey, and as a continuation, another four were drilled in Italy. Apart from these, many other projects were completed successfully using the slim hole drilling technique; some even reached depths of over 2000 m (6562 ft). Additionally, for some of these projects, hole tests and wireline logging operations were also successfully executed.

The Geothermal, Oil & Gas Exploration division of Ortadoğu Drilling can also provide engineering services, such as mud logging, mud engineering, gas separation and measurements, all types of wireline logging, hole tests, etc.

Pakistan iron ore exploration and development project

One of the most comprehensive projects Ortadoğu Drilling has ever conducted was executed with the purpose of iron ore exploration for the Government of Punjab, Pakistan. The project was composed of five work elements, namely diamond drilling, wireline logging, groundwater drilling and hole tests, geotechnical drilling, and surface geophysics. On this project, a total of 50 000 m (164 042 ft) of drilling with an average hole depth of 1000 m (3281 ft) deep holes and related operations were completed successfully under the consultancy of international companies.

Trona exploration & development

One of the very early and perhaps the most important projects that Ortadoğu Drilling completed was a drilling project for the exploration and development of trona for US Borax/ Rio Tinto in Ankara, Turkey. The project started in 1997 and lasted four years. A total of 40 exploration/development holes with an average depth of 1000 m (3281 ft) were drilled. This project was so important for the company because of the challenges of coring the trona mineral. As trona can be easily melted by drilling fluids, various types of drilling mud were tested before a full core of trona could be retrieved. Twenty-five years ago, this project was a great learning experience in mud engineering for Ortadoğu Drilling.

Besides wireline drilling, Ortadoğu Drilling carried out many other activities, such as the construction of deep observation wells, wireline geophysical logging, borehole cementation to prevent mixing of saline and fresh groundwater zones, and many hydrogeological borehole tests like deep packer tests. Today, the facility established for trona/soda production in the Ankara region is the biggest one in Turkey.

Exploration with noise curtains at the Black Sea Region
Exploration with noise curtains at the Black Sea Region

Deep exploration holes in the middle of tea gardens: Eastern Black Sea Region of Turkey

The eastern part of the Black Sea Region of Turkey is full of tea gardens, which are the mainstay for the local community. With today’s owner, First Quantum Minerals, Cayeli Copper Enterprises is a very old, big underground copper mine, located in the Eastern Black Sea. Ortadoğu Drilling carried out many surface and underground exploration programs for copper in the region for over 15 years. Some surface exploration holes were deeper than 1500 m (4921 ft). Some of them were next to the residences and some were even inside the tea gardens.

This project was very environmentally sensitive, Ortadoğu Drilling installed blow-out preventers, which were used in slim hole drilling at the collar of each borehole inside the tea gardens. The exploration holes were drilled with slim hole technique – by cementing each size of casing to the preventer at the collar – to avoid pressurized groundwater discharge from the boreholes to the gardens. At the drill sites close to residents, each drill rig was completely covered by noise curtains to avoid disturbances to the community.

With the efforts of the drilling crew and thanks to all the necessary precautions taken, these projects showed that it is possible to execute a drilling operation without any disturbance to the environment and community, even if the drill rigs work almost inside villages.

The importance of a drilling contractor

Ortadoğu Drilling believes that the drilling contractor plays an exceptional role in the exploration and development of projects; it is not about just drilling a hole in the ground. Core recovery and quality, linearity and design of each borehole play a crucial role in the reserve calculation and the future of a project. Each member of the company’s specialized crew is aware of the impact of drilling on the economy in mining planning.

Knowing this fact very well, Ortadoğu Drilling can use a variety of drilling techniques enhanced by their own manufacturing division which makes unique diamond tools specific to the characteristics of the drilled rock to maximize core recovery. The company’s drilling crews have vast experience in drilling in the most challenging geological formations of Turkey, which is a very tectonically active country. Ortadoğu Drilling is used to working in rough conditions. Even at over 3000 m (9843 ft) above sea level and under extremely cold temperatures, the crews can drill 24/7. For all extreme conditions, the crews can rely on special water heating systems and rig shacks.

Armed with their experience, gained through many years of drilling into highly-altered and faulted zones, their drillers know how to core difficult and unconsolidated formations. Ortadoğu Drilling’s specialized drillers, supervisors and drilling engineers are capable of drilling and surveying deep holes and executing all engineering applications to the highest international standards.

Health, safety and environment

Ortadoğu Drilling is the only drilling contractor in Turkey whose entire crew is trained and certified by the U.S. Geology Survey government agency on safety procedures during drilling operations. Ortadoğu Drilling understands how important the requirements for accident- and incident-free operations of their clients are. To be able to meet these requirements, their site safety teams, managed by the company’s Health and Safety Department, are composed of experienced safety engineers, who monitor daily every single drill site and conduct periodical safety trainings for the crews.

Drilling crew on site
Drilling crew on site

Thanks to the hard work of the health and safety engineers together with the manufacturing team, the long-term project of ‘Handsfree Safe Operation on the Rig’ was finalized and all the necessary modifications were completed, so as of the beginning of 2022, all of the company’s drill rigs are equipped with a rod holder and rod spinner making ‘handsfree’ rod handling possible.

As a product of the company’s health and safety culture over the years, Ortadoğu Drilling has an impressive safety record. In the last five years, they have recorded zero loss time injuries and no environmental incidents.

Company policy and targets

Ortadoğu Drilling’s priority is and will always be maintaining mutual trust and cooperation with its clients by providing high-quality drilling operations. Without providing good service and nourishing good relationships, increasing the number of drilled meters would not be effective enough. Although the company can increase the number of drill rigs easily, first they must be sure that crews are skilled enough to operate these rigs.

On the other hand, the company is always open to expanding into other countries and is ready for challenging projects.

For more information visit: www.ortadogusondaj.com & www.geosondajmakine.com

Read Issue 21 here: 

Issue 21 / 2022