LEDsmagazine.com JULY/AUGUST 2017 41
ssl projects | INDUSTRIAL LIGHTING
When you operate a rough-and- tough steel mill where the fur- naces hit 2300°F, where hydrochloric acid washes impurities from finished
metal, where industrial rollers crank and
churn as they flatten slabs down from 10
inches to 1-inch sheets and smaller, where
welders’ arcs flare in the maintenance room
and workers fight dust and dirt everywhere,
the last thing you want to worry about is
Yet that’s what they were doing at the 350-
acre NLMK steel works in Farrell, PA, about
70 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, both inside
the cavernous halls and outside on the roads,
the parking lots, and at the pumping station
along the Shenango River.
“I had people in bucket trucks going
around pretty much almost every day of the
week, pretty much they were going around
replacing bulbs and ballasts — I had to keep
one guy on street lighting all year long,”
recalled NLMK corporate risk manager Jeff
Stidham. Yet, all the while, “we had a steel
mill we were trying to run,” he added.
Or as senior plant electrical engineer Mike
Allenbaugh put it, “We are lightly staffed
on our maintenance, and we don’t want to
be working on our lights all the time.” He
recalled that high-bay metal-halide (MH)
lamps would frequently dim out so that
“probably about once a year we had to have
somebody go up and change bulbs on them.”
With ceiling heights around 60 ft in some
locations, replacement was never easy.
That was in NLMK’s not-too-distant past,
which included the MH high bays as well as f lu-
orescents, sodium-vapor lamps, and other light
sources for street lamps, area lighting, and
other functions. The mill had around 10,000
of the older-technology lamps as recently as
2012. It had been considering installing LED
lighting for several years prior to that, tempted
in large measure by the promise of longer life-
times and, eventually, 10-year warranties from
British industrial LED lighting vendor Dialight.
“Once every year-and-a-half to two years
with conventional lighting, they were need-
ing to change out lamps — relamp the facility
or swap out whole entire fixtures,” said Dial-
ight regional sales manager Ryan Antonikas.
“Any time you do that in a heavy industrial
location, whether it’s a steel mill or not, it’s
pretty costly to do so. You have a lot of safety
concerns, you have to shut down equipment,
lock out, tag out, make a lot of safety precau-
tions just to change a lamp or a ballast.”
NLMK had evaluated LED lighting as early
as 2008, but the solid-state lighting (SSL) sim-
ply wasn’t ready. For one reason, it didn’t emit
enough lumens to provide adequate illumi-
nation, which was of particular concern for
high-bay installations at the works.
“LEDs just weren’t that good back then,”
said Allenbaugh. “They were very expensive
and they weren’t as bright as the fluorescents.”
But by 2010, SSL technology from Dialight was beginning to improve to the point
where NLMK believed it could start to meet
the needs of its heavy-duty environment.
Down by the river
The plant, which is part of the $7.6 billion
Russian steel giant NLMK Group that is the
world’s 16th largest steelmaker by output,
according to the World Steel Association,
dabbled in a small LED conversion that year.
It installed about a dozen Dialight outdoor
area lights — floodlights — to illuminate the
pumping station that sends cooling water
from the river into the factory’s heat exchange
system. The 24 6×9-in. lights, about 58W each,
replaced 175 W MH lights.
Steel mill blasts away lighting maintenance
worries with LED conversion
The Russian-owned NLMK plant in western Pennsylvania used to spend inordinate time and money
replacing bulbs. Britain’s Dialight is correcting the problem with long-life LED lighting while ushering
in energy savings and other benefits, as MARK HALPER discovers.
MARK HALPER is a contributing editor for
LEDs Magazine, and an energy, technology, and
business journalist ( firstname.lastname@example.org).
FIG. 1. Temperatures hit 2300°F in the NLMK hot mill. With heat like that, the LED
lamps better be rugged.