© 2016, Springer Science+Business Media New York.A bentonite-free water-based drilling fluid (BFDF) with high-temperature tolerance (up to 200°C) was developed for protecting reservoirs in deep wells. The fluid is composed of heatresistant polymeric thickener and starch, sodium sulfite, etc. A series of methods including environmental scanning electron microscopy (ESEM), linear expansion and hot-rolling dispersion test, and core-flow experiments and measurements of the rheological parameter, filtrate, and biotoxicity were used to evaluate the performance of the BFDF formulation. Laboratory results indicate that the fluid has excellent high-temperature tolerance. Its yield point and plastic viscosity ratio is up to 0.38 even after aging at 200°C for 16 h with API filtrate of 9.8 mL. Its apparent viscosity, plastic viscosity, and yield point at 180°C are 30 mPa·s, 17 mPa·s, and 14.5 Pa, respectively, which show its good well-cutting carrying performance and wellbore purification capacity. The BFDF formulation exhibits a strong ability to restrain the linear expansion rate of bentonite and shale powder, to improve cutting recovery, to protect the well reservoir by cutting down water blocking and lowering permeability damage, and to minimize biotoxicity with a high EC50 value and is suitable for drilling deep wells in environmentally sensitive areas.