Feasibility of Autonomous Robotics for Relining Penstocks and Similar Structures

Project ID: 19188
Principal Investigator: Allen Skaja
Research Topic: Repair and Maintenance
Funded Fiscal Years: 2019, 2020 and 2021
Keywords: None

Research Question

Can autonomous robotic coatings applications become the new method for relining penstocks and similar equipment at Reclamation? Should the robotic equipment be optimized for legacy coating application via solution vinyl?

Need and Benefit

Most of Reclamation's linings in the penstocks are approaching the end of their service life. It has been estimated that
if all penstocks were relined at the same time it would exceed $200 million in 2017 dollars. The cost of relining
penstocks is challenging, and expensive. Advances in robotics technology have allowed for faster production rates,
thus shortening downtime and saving money. Unfortunately, the materials presently used have an expected service
life of 15-20 years. This research is needed to determine the feasibility to apply legacy coatings, such as vinyl, to
penstocks, outlet works and pipelines safely using autonomous robotics technology. There is other robotics
technology used in the automotive industry that could potentially be used for confined space work such as draft tubes
and scroll cases.
Reclamation will benefit by having coating materials that are known to have extremely long service lifetimes resulting
in less maintenance costs. Using autonomous robotics has a health a safety benefit.
Reclamation and the entire hydropower industry have been trying various products and have limited success for
replacement of the old legacy coatings. More frequent relinings would require a shift in Reclamations budget in order
to protect its infrastructure.

Contributing Partners

Contact the Principal Investigator for information about partners.

Research Products

Bureau of Reclamation Review

The following documents were reviewed by experts in fields relating to this project's study and findings. The results were determined to be achieved using valid means.

Methods of Relining Penstocks and Pipe Structures: Summary of Collaborative Efforts (final, PDF, 2.3MB)
By Allen Skaja
Report completed on February 24, 2022

This research product summarizes the research results and potential application to Reclamation's mission.

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Last Updated: 6/22/20