Supply of W-Shapes - Letter #1 Feb 1999

    26 February 1999

    To: Structural Engineers, Architects, Fabricators, Building Officials and Educators

    Re: Supply of W Shapes in Canada

    Algoma Steel Inc. recently announced a decision to close, by the end of 1999, their Shapes Mill - the mill that produces W shapes (frequently called wide flange shapes). Algoma Steel has indicated, however, that they will continue to produce steel plate, welded wide flange shapes produced from steel plate, and steel sheet which is used in the production of hollow structural sections. Thus Algoma Steel Inc. will continue to be an important Canadian supplier of steel products for the construction industry.

    Algoma Steel's introduction of wide flange shapes made in Canada in the early 1960's initiated a new era for steel construction in Canada, since designers, fabricators and owners were able to obtain this important steel product, for the first time, from a Canadian steel mill. The closing of the Algoma Steel facility raises the obvious question of what will happen in future with respect to the supply of W shapes for use in Canada.

    Prior to the 1960's, wide flange steel shapes used in Canada were supplied primarily by steel mills in the United States and in Europe. Today, steel mills in the United States and Europe, and also in other countries, supply wide flange shapes used in Canada. In particular, Chaparral Steel, British Steel Canada Inc. and TradeARBED Canada Inc., all of whom are member companies of the Canadian Institute of Steel Construction (CISC), and other mills such as Nucor-Yamato Steel Co. and North Western Steel and Wire Co. are reliable and long established suppliers of W shapes for use in Canada. Several of these steel mills have recently increased, or are increasing, their production capacity of W shapes. For example, Chaparral Steel is presently completing construction of a new steel mill in Virginia which will be capable of producing more than one million tons of W shapes per year.

    Thus, in spite of the fact that Algoma Steel Inc. will cease production of W shapes by the end of this year, there will still be an ample supply of high quality W shapes available in Canada. (The current CISC Handbook of Steel Construction lists six W shapes produced exclusively by Algoma Steel Inc., and designers should enquire about their availability before specifying these shapes).

    The steel mills listed earlier in this letter supply W shapes in accordance with the requirements of CSA Standard G40.21 Structural Quality Steel, and designers should continue to specify this grade of steel for structures in Canada. These mills also supply structural shapes in accordance with ASTM specifications, when the use of steel produced in accordance with an ASTM specification is more appropriate for a particular structure.

    Algoma Steel has been an important supplier of W shapes for the Canadian market for 38 years, and the CISC regrets that, by the end of this year, Algoma Steel will no longer be producing W shapes. However, other reliable producers of wide flange shapes will replace the quantity of this product that had previously been supplied by Algoma Steel Inc.

    If you have any questions about this matter, please do not hesitate to contact me or other members of the CISC staff.

    Yours truly,

    Hugh A. Krentz, P.Eng.