With well depths more commonly surpassing 30,000 ft below the mudline and ever-increasing water depths, exceedingly high-pressure environments present a new and challenging frontier for both operators and service companies. These new environments demand advances to existing technology to endure such pressure extremes while also accurately positioning the wellbore in the reservoir and obtaining critical geological information as the well is drilled.

A recent example in this pressure regime in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico will be reviewed. Pressure limits of the currently available technology are extended while successfully meeting drilling and evaluation goals. The drilling and evaluation technologies delivered real-time formation pressure and geological information, along with continuous directional control, enabling the operator to make vital decisions while drilling and for sidetrack evaluation. This real-time decision-making capability reduced the time required to execute casing point selection and subsequent sidetrack plans. Emphasis is placed on the need for operators and service companies alike to focus on thorough pre-job planning while paying close attention to complete system requirements high-pressure evaluation tools and detailed reviews.

Newer drilling opportunities, particularly in the deepwater arena, involve operating in extreme environments such as ultrahigh pressures, and demand different approaches to ensure flawless execution. This paper presents the variety of challenges, critical success factors, and lessons learned when drilling these ultra-high pressure wells in the demanding waters of the Gulf of Mexico. With downhole pressures approaching 30,000 psi and ever-increasing rig costs, the need for dependable drilling systems and integrated advanced formation evaluation technology is needed now more than ever.

The case results showcase the ability to set a new performance standard, extend the conventional operating envelop farther, and deliver answers while drilling.

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