Assessing the Variability of Highly Complex Mixtures of Organic Contaminants from Oil Industry Produced Waters using GC×GC-ToF-MS

Alan Scarlett1, Charles West1, Sabine Lengger1, Richard Frank2 and Steve Rowland1


Biogeochemistry Research Centre, Plymouth University, U.K.
2 Aquatic Contaminants Research Division/Water Science & Technology Directorate, Environment Canada, Canada

Presented at: SETAC Europe 23rd Annual Meeting, Glasgow, U.K., 12-16 May 2013.

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Brief Summary

Produced waters from oil industries represent a huge challenge in terms of complexity and risk assessment. Some of the most complex mixtures are derived from the oil sands process-affected waters (OSPW) of Alberta Canada which contain tens of thousands of polar acidic organic compounds usually referred to as ‘naphthenic acids’ (NAs). Until recently, individual structures of these NAs were unknown but analyses by comprehensive gas chromatography with time of flight mass spectrometry (GC×GC-ToF-MS) have now begun to reveal the individual structures of alicyclic, aromatic and sulphur-containing acids within OSPWs contained within tailings ponds. Recently some of the acids have also been identified within ground water samples outside of the tailings ponds. One obstacle to understanding whether such acids from environmental samples, such as ground waters, are associated with particular tailings ponds is the lack of knowledge of the variability of OSPW within and between ponds. GC×GC-ToF-MS has been used in the present study to compare such acids in OSPWs, both temporally and spatially, using specific, known compounds.

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