Characterization and identification of the Detroit River mystery oil spill (2002)

Zhendi Wang, M Fingas, P Lambert, G Zeng, C Yang, B Hollebone
Journal of Chromatography. A 2004 June 4, 1038 (1-2): 201-14
In this paper, a case study of the Detroit River mystery oil spill (2002) is presented that demonstrates the utility of detailed and integrated oil fingerprinting in investigating unknown or suspected oil spills. The detailed diagnostic oil fingerprinting techniques include determination of hydrocarbon groups and semi-quantitative product screening, analysis of oil-characteristic biomarkers and the extended suite of parent and alkylated polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and quantitative determination of a variety of diagnostic ratios of "source-specific marker" compounds. The detailed chemical fingerprinting data and results highlight the followings: (1) The spill samples were largely composed of used lube oil mixed with smaller portion of diesel fuel. (2) The diesel in the samples had been weathered and degraded. (3) Sample 3 collected from N. Boblo Island on 14 April was more weathered (most probably caused by more evaporation and water-washing) than samples 1 and 2. (4) All fingerprinting results clearly demonstrated oils in three samples were the same, and they came from the same source. (5) Most PAH compounds were from the diesel portion in the spill samples, while the biomarker compounds were largely from the lube oil. (6) Input of pyrogenic PAHs to the spill samples was clearly demonstrated. The pyrogenic PAHs were most probably produced from combustion and motor lubrication processes, and the lube oil in these spill samples was waste lube oil.

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