Autonomous Rehabilitation and Maintenance of Natural Gas Pipes

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Champaign, Illinois
Project Term:
11/09/2020 - 11/08/2023

Critical Need:

Legacy pipe malfunctions create operating risk and legal liability for utilities, negatively impact system owners’ financial performance, and are costly to gas consumers. Today, repairing legacy pipes involves excavating and replacing them, typically with high-density polyethylene pipe. Replacement costs range from $1-10 million per mile, depending on the pipe’s location (rural vs. urban), complexity of the excavation, and costs for restoring roads. Utilities also incur costs whenever gas service is disrupted for repairs. REPAIR seeks to eliminate the highest cost components, excavation and restoration, by rehabilitating pipes without their removal—in essence, by automatically constructing a new pipe within the old.

Project Innovation + Advantages:

Autonomic Materials, Inc. (AMI) proposes a new category of rehabilitation materials for legacy naturalgas pipes. The novel Extruded-in-Place Pipe-in-Pipe (ExiPiPTM) rehabilitation solution for legacy gas piping avoids costly excavation-intense replacement while providing a new structurally independent pipe offering a 50-year life span. This solution leverages frontally cured poly(dicyclopentadiene) as the new pipe material and will feature self-healing and self-reporting functionalities. This material will be deployed in a live pipe and supported by a modular robotic platform capable of incorporating pre- and post-inspection payloads as well as a deposition tool for extruding and curing the new pipe material. Data acquired in pre-, post-, and maintenance inspections will provide valuable information for more effective integrity management of the new pipe. At a projected cost of less than $1 million per mile, ExiPiPTM significantly decreases legacy pipe rehabilitation expenses.

Potential Impact:

REPAIR seeks to eliminate the highest pipe rehabilitation costs, excavation and restoration, by repairing pipes without their removal.


REPAIR projects should improve the sustainability of domestic natural gas distribution by economically rehabilitating legacy pipes.


REPAIR will produce 3D maps and data management/visualization tools that integrate geospatial data for leak testing, integrity/inspection data, coating deposition data, and locations of pipes and adjacent underground infrastructure.


REPAIR program innovations will accelerate legacy pipeline replacement while reducing cost to utilities and gas customers.


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. Jack Lewnard
Project Contact:
Dr. Gerald Wilson
Press and General Inquiries Email:
Project Contact Email:


University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign
Carnegie Mellon University

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