The Talara Basin in Perú is a mature oil field where production is extremely marginal, and well-construction designs are tailored to this condition to optimize well costs. However, one well recently drilled in this area was identified with the original reservoir pressure, and the well design was not based on this pressure. As a result, drilling issues such as fluid loss and lost circulation were carefully monitored while trying to control reservoir pressure in a long open-hole section. The challenges faced while cementing a high-pressure zone with controlled fluid losses and achieving well objectives in terms of safety, reliability, and lifetime zonal isolation of the well are discussed.

At the planning stage, a mud density of 13 lbm/gal was considered adequate to control downhole pressure (overbalanced); however, before reaching total depth, signs of high pressure were observed while drilling through a low-permeability formation. Mud density was significantly increased to control the well while monitoring the fluid return. When the mud weight reached 15.5 lbm/gal, losses were reported. Finally, the well was stabilized at 15.8 lbm/gal using different lost circulation pills. This event complicated the cementing operation because it substantially increased the necessary slurry density (16.1-lbm/gal lead and 17-lbm/gal tail). Nevertheless, proper cementing design and effective slurry placement using conventional techniques resulted in successful cementing operation with full cement return to the surface.

High-density cement slurries were successfully mixed and pumped regardless of their highly viscous property. The cementing unit and personnel were able to manage this vital operation without facing major problems. Before bumping the plug, circulating pressure was close to the theoretical value, confirming that the cement slurry column was as per the design without noticeable losses into the formation. Full cement returns confirmed a successful cement placement. Final circulating pressure was 2,370 psi, and it increased to 2,900 psi when the plug was bumped. The cement evaluation log obtained after 24 hours indicated good bonding, effective mud displacement, and a successful cement operation. The well was then fractured and put on production. Neither corrective work nor a well-integrity remediation operation was necessary.

Drilling the abnormally pressurized well was extremely challenging because of unexpected high pressure and associated problems, including working with high-density slurries and using various fluid additives to achieve adequate zonal isolation for future stimulation works. Techniques involved and experiences gained while undertaking this considerably challenging project are discussed in this article.

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