Many new oil production technologies evolved after World War II. Lane-Wells developed downhole “guns” to provide the explosive energy to cut through casing and strata. Above, one of many articles preserved in a rare scrapbook, courtesy of Connie Jones Pillsbury, Atascadero, California.

About 15 years after its first perforation job, Lane-Wells Company returned to the same oil well near Motebello, California, to perform its 100,000th perforation. The publicity event of June 18, 1948, was a return to Union Oil Company’s La Merced No. 17 well. It was a colorful ceremony, according to at least one trade magazine.

Officials from both companies and invited guests gathered to witness the repeat performance of the company’s early perforating technology, notes Petroleum Engineer in its July 1948 issue. Among them were “several well-known oilmen who had also been present on the first occasion.”

Walter Wells, chairman of the board for Lane-Wells, was present for both events. The article reports that he was far more anxious at the first, which had been an experiment to test his company’s new perforating gun. In 1930, Wells and another enterprising oilfield tool salesman, Bill Lane, came up with a practical  way of using guns downhole. They envisioned a tool which would shoot steel bullets through casing and into the formation.

The two men created a multiple-shot perforator that fired bullets individually by electrical detonation of the powder charges. After many tests, success came at the Union Oil Company La Merced well. As explained further in Downhole Bazooka, by late 1935 Lane-Wells had established a small fleet of trucks as the company grew into a leading provider of well-perforation services.

“Bill Lane and Walt Wells worked long hours at a time, establishing their perforating gun business,” explains Susan Wells in a 2007 book about Baker Atlas, which is the company today. The men designed tools that would better help the oil industry during the Great Depression, she writes. “It was a period of high drilling costs, and the demand for oil was on the rise. Making this scenario worse was the fact that the cost of oil was relatively low.”

What was needed was a high-powered gun for breaking through a well’s casing, cement and into oil-well formations,” Wells notes. “An oilfield worker, Sidney Mims, previously patented a similar technical tool for this purpose, but could not get it to properly work for his needs. Lane and Wells purchased Mims’ patent and reengineered the perforating gun.”


Lane-Wells became Baker Atlas, which celebrated its 75 anniversay in 2007, and today is a division of Baker-Hughes.

Established in Los Angeles in 1932, the oilfield service company developed a remotely controlled 128-shot gun perforator. “Lane and Wells publicly used the reengineered shotgun perforator they bought from Mims on Union Oil’s oil well La Merced No. 17. There wasn’t any production from this oil well until the shotgun perforator was used, but when used, the well produced more oil than ever before,” she explains in 75 Years Young…BAKER ATLAS The Future has Never Looked Brighter.

The successful application attracted many other oil companies to Lane-Wells, which decided to conduct its 100,000th perforation 15 and a half years later at the same California oil well. The continued success led to new partnerships beginning in the 1950s.

A merger with Dresser Industries was finalized in March 1956. Another merger came in 1968 with Pan Geo Atlas Corporation, forming Dresser Atlas. A 1987 joint venture with Litton Industries led to Western Atlas International, which became an independent company before becoming a division of Baker-Hughes in 1998. Baker Atlas today provides well logging technology and perforating services worldwide.

Preserving Petroleum History:  100,000th Perforation Scrapbook

Connie Jones Pillsbury of Atascadero, California, possesses the original guest book (press-clippings scrapbook) from the “Lane-Wells 100,000th Gun Perforating Job” of June 18, 1948, at the Union Oil Company La Merced No. 17 well at Montebello, California. She is looking for a good, permanent home for her rare oil patch artifact, which comes from an event “attended by most of the top players in the oil industry in Los Angeles during this era.”

The professionally prepared book has all of the attendees signatures, photographs and articles on the event from TIME, The Oil and Gas Journal, Fortnight, Oil Reporter, Drilling, The Petroleum Engineer, Oil, Petroleum World, California Oil World, Lane-Wells Magazine, the L.A. Examiner, L.A. Daily News and L.A. Times.

Pillsbury emphasizes this one-of-a-kind book needs a home in a museum or university archives. The children of Dale G. Jones, her first husband and the grandson of Walter T. Wells, asked her to help find a suitable location to preserve it. Contact the American Oil & Gas Historical Society for more information.


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