ARPA-E REPAIR Program Graphic

REPAIR Program Update: First Year Perspective and What's Next

by Dr. Jack Lewnard, ARPA-E Program Director

DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy was established in 2009 to explore high-impact technologies that are too risky for the private sector. REPAIR (Rapid Encapsulation of Pipelines Avoiding Intensive Replacement) is a 3-year, $38 million program with ambitious goals for natural gas distribution pipes. The program seeks new technologies to rehabilitate the pipes, extending their life by 50 years, with minimal surface disruption while the pipes are live, and with a cost less than $1 million per mile. Seven teams are developing robots that can provide polymer or metal coatings on the inside of the pipes, and then run inspection tools to verify the coating integrity. As part of this effort, we are developing the test procedures and hardware to confirm pipe life, and mapping tools that can create 3-D images of the pipes and adjacent buried infrastructure. The following table summarizes the teams and their areas of focus. While the program targets gas distribution pipes, we anticipate the technologies will find initial markets in water and sewer lines as well.

Technical Approach Team Lead

Testing and Analysis of Pipeline Encapsulation Technologies

University of Colorado Boulder

Metal Spray-Based Rehabilitation

University of Maryland

ULC Technologies

University of Pittsburgh

Polymer-Based Rehabilitation

General Electric Global Research

Autonomic Materials

University of Delaware Center for Composite Materials

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Pipe Locating

White River Technologies

Carnegie Mellon University

We’ve just completed the first year and would like to share progress on the REPAIR initiative. The teams have tested many coating materials. Metal coatings were expected to be very challenging, starting with the cost of materials. As discussed below, it appears metals may be best suited for local repairs (welds, pits, etc.) vs. coating the entire internal length of the pipe. The metal coatings teams are actively seeking information on potential applications. On the polymer side, the teams have identified a diverse set of formulations, with and without fiber reinforcement. There’s still much work to be done with the coating deposition and integrity inspection robots, but initial prototypes show a path to success. The testing team has identified the major failure mechanisms and developed test procedures and is building the testing rigs. This information is available to any company interested in developing coating technologies. Finally, the two mapping teams are making very good progress. The precision of mapping from the surface is meeting or near to the +/-10 cm target in X, Y, and Z. Mapping tools for inside the pipe, mounted on commercial inspection tools, can "see" and quantify defects with unprecedented resolution.

While there’s still a lot of work ahead, the teams have a great start. Each project team has provided a brief status report below. We are interested in hearing from stakeholders – pipe operators, inspection companies, contractors, and regulators. Your input is critical for guiding the technical and commercial development of the REPAIR program. You can meet the teams at the 2022 ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit May 23-25 in Denver, Colorado. Please send questions or feedback to me at For more information, refer to the REPAIR Annual Meeting presentations at

For more information on REPAIR projects, see the REPAIR program page.

Reprinted courtesy of Trenchless for Gas Infrastructure, 2022