The Arctic Containment System project delivered a first-of-its-kind, barge-based oil-spill containment system to serve the owner as a fourth line of defense against an oil well breach during Arctic drilling.

The system is a prototype that had never been constructed before. Therefore, the project team was challenged to pre-plan key items such as scheduling and budgeting. With no precedent to work from, initial schedules and budgets served only as starting points and were periodically modified during the project.

The Arctic Containment System is intended to capture, then process and flare off hydrocarbons escaping into the sea from a damaged sub-sea well head.

The key innovation of the system is a containment dome that would be lowered over a well head to recover oil and water, then transport it to the barge's process module for separation. The technology then burns off the oil using the vessel's flare boom and returns the water back to the sea.

Development of the prototype required shore assembly of process equipment, piping and electrical systems into a single large module as well as the assembly of specialized marine recovery systems into a separate large module.

These two modules were joined together on the 315-ft-long Arctic Challenger barge. Fabrication deliverables were executed in Corvallis, Ore.; Vancouver, Wash.; and Ferndale, Wash.

In addition to the two main modules, various support structures, marine cranes and equipment were also built on the barge using traditional shipbuilding and marine-construction methods.

Working under a fast-track approach, the 24/7 construction schedule from January to September 2012 required more than 1,000 crew members and more than a half-million labor hours over 10 months. The crew tallied total welds of more than 2.5 million in. with a 0.36% weld-test failure rate.

The project reported zero lost-time incidents, no OSHA recordable injuries and no loss of assets or property. The crew achieved this in the face of significant safety challenges, including fatigue from double shifts, winter work, over-water activity, tight workspaces and large concentrations of crew members on the dock and the barge deck.


Arctic Containment System, Bellingham, Wash.

Key Players

Owner/Main Designer Superior Energy Services

Fabricator/General Contractor Greenberry Industrial

Design Engineer ASRC Energy Services

Barge Modernization Vigor Marine

Construction Coordination CH2M Hill

Marine Electrical MMR