PipeLine Underground Trenchless Overhaul (PLUTO)

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Fairfield, Connecticut
Project Term:
02/18/2021 - 02/17/2024

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:

General Electric (GE) Global Research will develop PipeLine Underground Trenchless Overhaul (PLUTO)—a long-distance, minimally invasive pipe repair system that provides structural rehabilitation of gas pipelines faster, more efficiently, and less expensively than traditional open-cut excavation replacement. The GE team, including Warren Environmental and Garver, will develop and integrate a highly dexterous long-range pipe-crawling (robotic) system, high-speed non-destructive evaluation technologies, and advanced spray-on thick-coating epoxy lining systems. The PLUTO system will provide efficient pipeline maintenance at ½ to 1/20th the cost of traditional open-trench methods, a key enabler to lower emissions by reducing pipeline transit loss and maintenance burdens.

Potential Impact:

If successful, GE’s PLUTO system would eliminate the highest pipe rehabilitation cost components, 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. Todd Danko
Press and General Inquiries Email:
Project Contact Email:

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