At least 10 of the nation’s natural gas utilities are about to receive a long overdue overhaul of its pipeline distribution systems. The Dept. of Energy announced last February that it had earmarked funds to rehabilitate natural gas pipelines originally constructed in the 1800s with cast iron, and later in the 1930s with wrought iron—both of which have become a contentious source of leaks and failures. But hey, it’s only been 90 to 220 years. What do you expect from a great-great-great grandparent pulling hard overtime?
Nevertheless, the legacy pipes identified comprise 3% of the nearly two million miles of utility pipelines in operation today, and the time arrived earlier this year to create a new government program cleverly coined REPAIR (Rapid Encapsulation of Pipelines Avoiding Intensive Replacement) to rehab those transmission soldiers of a certain age. Now, with $33 million in hand, The REPAIR initiative is ready to rock and roll, and will include the addition of “smart” coatings to line the inside of the identified pipelines using 3D mapping tools and robotic tools—essentially creating new pipe inside the aged pipe. The coating technology is expected to have a minimum lifespan of 50 years, even if the outer pipe eventually succumbs (which of course it will). As a comparison, the DOE says excavation and complete replacement of the original pipelines would otherwise cost up to $10 million per mile.
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