Development of oil hydrocarbon fingerprinting and identification techniques

Zhendi Wang, Merv F Fingas
Marine Pollution Bulletin 2003, 47 (9): 423-52
Oil, refined product, and pyrogenic hydrocarbons are the most frequently discovered contaminants in the environment. To effectively determine the fate of spilled oil in the environment and to successfully identify source(s) of spilled oil and petroleum products is, therefore, extremely important in many oil-related environmental studies and liability cases. This article briefly reviews the recent development of chemical analysis methodologies which are most frequently used in oil spill characterization and identification studies and environmental forensic investigations. The fingerprinting and data interpretation techniques discussed include oil spill identification protocol, tiered analytical approach, generic features and chemical composition of oils, effects of weathering on hydrocarbon fingerprinting, recognition of distribution patterns of petroleum hydrocarbons, oil type screening and differentiation, analysis of "source-specific marker" compounds, determination of diagnostic ratios of specific oil constituents, stable isotopic analysis, application of various statistical and numerical analysis tools, and application of other analytical techniques. The issue of how biogenic and pyrogenic hydrocarbons are distinguished from petrogenic hydrocarbons is also addressed.

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