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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Comprehensive Chemical Characterization of Hydrocarbons in NIST Standard Reference Material 2779 Gulf of Mexico Crude Oil

  • Author(s): Worton, DR
  • Zhang, H
  • Isaacman-Vanwertz, G
  • Chan, AWH
  • Wilson, KR
  • Goldstein, AH
  • et al.

© 2015 American Chemical Society. Comprehensive chemical information is needed to understand the environmental fate and impact of hydrocarbons released during oil spills. However, chemical information remains incomplete because of the limitations of current analytical techniques and the inherent chemical complexity of crude oils. In this work, gas chromatography (GC)-amenable C9-C33hydrocarbons were comprehensively characterized from the National Institute of Standards and Technology Standard Reference Material (NIST SRM) 2779 Gulf of Mexico crude oil by GC coupled to vacuum ultraviolet photoionization mass spectrometry (GC/VUV-MS), with a mass balance of 68 ± 22%. This technique overcomes one important limitation faced by traditional GC and even comprehensive 2D gas chromatography (GC×GC): the necessity for individual compounds to be chromatographically resolved from one another in order to be characterized. VUV photoionization minimizes fragmentation of the molecular ions, facilitating the characterization of the observed hydrocarbons as a function of molecular weight (carbon number, NC), structure (number of double bond equivalents, NDBE), and mass fraction (mg kg-1), which represent important metrics for understanding their fate and environmental impacts. Linear alkanes (8 ± 1%), branched alkanes (11 ± 2%), and cycloalkanes (37 ± 12%) dominated the mass with the largest contribution from cycloalkanes containing one or two rings and one or more alkyl side chains (27 ± 9%). Linearity and good agreement with previous work for a subset of >100 components and for the sum of compound classes provided confidence in our measurements and represents the first independent assessment of our analytical approach and calibration methodology. Another crude oil collected from the Marlin platform (35 km northeast of the Macondo well) was shown to be chemically identical within experimental errors to NIST SRM 2779, demonstrating that Marlin crude is an appropriate surrogate oil for researchers conducting laboratory research into impacts of the DeepWater Horizon disaster.

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