Crude Oil Analysis and Biomarker Testing Using GC-MS
Fingerprinting Oil Spills using Chromatography
The occurrence of oil spills poses a significant threat to our natural environment. Identifying the origins of these spills plays a crucial role in safeguarding our ecosystems, protecting wildlife, and preserving the delicate balance of coral reefs. Scientists rely on chromatography techniques to understand the impact of oil spills on aquatic environments and their inhabitants, while also determining the root cause behind such incidents.
Typically unfolding in marine settings, oil spills often stem from accidents, caused by equipment failure or natural calamities. However, there are instances where such spills are intentional, prompting the need for thorough investigation due to the substantial environmental harm they cause.
Chromatography is a significant tool in these investigations, enabling the analysis and characterization of complex compounds. Chromatography allows scientists to precisely quantify the extent of biodegradation within the affected environment and determine the rate at which this natural process occurs.
Petroleum biomarkers can be analyzed using gas chromatography to create unique oil fingerprints. These fingerprints aid in identifying the source of oil spills by assessing key biomarker ratios, like steranes and hopanes.
The composition of crude oils varies based on the geographical location and the specific plant and animal sources present in that area. Additionally, regional disparities in crude oils stem from varying timeframes, temperatures, and pressures during their formation. Oil fingerprinting is an important technique in determining the origin of an oil spill. It involves the assessment of various biomarkers like steranes and hopanes. This chemical analysis plays a central role in understanding and managing oil-related environmental incidents.
Oil fingerprinting, vital for spill prevention and response, faces challenges due to crude oil complexity and low constituent concentrations. Gas chromatography crude oil analysis offers unparalleled sensitivity, precision, and accuracy
Oil Fingerprinting – Biomarker Testing
Crude Oil Analysis
Biomarkers, organic compounds found in the geosphere, reflect a clear association with contemporary natural products. When organisms perish, their natural products integrate into sediments, undergoing structural changes influenced by sediment type and temperature. Deeper burial leads to complex biomarkers, forming petroleum trapped in reservoirs. Due to their unique specificity and resilience against biodegradation, petroleum biomarkers serve as invaluable tools for linking suspected source oils—both crude oils and their derived products—in incidents of environmental contamination. Analyzing biomarkers offers vital information in various environmental conditions, aiding in environmental investigations and identification of petroleum contaminants.
Using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) with selected ion monitoring (SIM), ions characteristic of biological marker and polyaromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) classes can be monitored to obtain the mass chromatograms used for oil ‘fingerprinting’ (e.g. m/z 191 (triterpenes) and m/z 217 and m/z 218 (steranes)). Correlation of diagnostic ratios derived from these compound classes can then be used to give a quantitative assessment of the degree of similarity/dissimilarity between spilled and suspect source oils.
The NORDTEST oil spill identification system offers multi-tiered analytical approaches for oil spill source determination.1 Chemical analysis of biomarkers provides crucial insights.
SCION Instruments GC-MS for Biomarker Testing and Identification
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Related Application Notes:
Our dedicated applications team has conducted research in the field of oil analysis. To delve deeper into our findings and insights, we invite you to download the comprehensive application notes provided below.