Energy Department announces $38.5M for natural gas distribution pipe restoration technology projects

Published on February 20, 2020 by Kevin Randolph

© Shutterstock

The Department of Energy (DOE) announced Tuesday up to $38.5 million in funding for a new program that will support the development of new technologies to restore cast iron and bare steel natural gas distribution pipes by conducting a new pipe inside the old pipe.

“Natural gas is an important energy resource for millions of households and businesses across the nation,” U.S. Under Secretary of Energy Mark W. Menezes said. “Developing technologies to keep our domestic natural gas pipeline infrastructure safe, secure, and state-of-the-art is crucial to maintain America’s energy leadership and independence.”

The new Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) program, Rapid Encapsulation of Pipelines Avoiding Intensive Replacement (REPAIR), will develop smart coatings, robotic tools for lining the inside of pipes, inspection tools to assess pipe integrity and mapping tools to create 3D renderings of pipes and adjacent underground infrastructure.

Successful technologies will meet utility and regulatory agency requirements, have a minimum life of 50 years, and have adequate material properties to operate for the duration of its service life without relying on the exterior pipe, DOE said.

The technologies will work towards a 10 to 20-times reduction in cost per mile, including gas service disruption costs. Current pipe excavation and replacement costs range up to $10 million per mile, according to DOE.

The Department noted that legacy cast iron and bare steel pipes account for approximately three percent of the nearly 2 million miles of utility pipes in operation but are the source of a disproportionate number of leaks and failures compared to more recently replaced pipes.