Method for quantifying the fate of petroleum in the environment Academic Article uri icon


  • Petroleum is a complex mixture of a wide range of hydrocarbon and non-hydrocarbon compounds of various physical and chemical properties. In recent years, the research on the fate of petroleum in the environment has required analytical methods that can provide more detailed information on the components of petroleum than traditional standard methods. The analytical method presented for aqueous, sediment, and soil samples provides several levels of information on petroleum in the environment. The Total Extractable Materials (TEM) analysis provides a gross measure of petroleum in the environment using methylene chloride extraction and gravimetric analysis. Gross composition analysis separates the methylene chloride extract into a saturate hydrocarbon, an aromatic hydrocarbon, and a polar fraction each measured gravimetrically. In contrast, the target compound analysis provides a detailed measure by GC-MS of 62 specific compounds. Normalization to the conservative compound, 17α,21β-(H)Hopane, is incorporated into the method to reduce the effects of sample and site heterogeneity. Quality control and quality assurance procedures are integral parts of these analyses to assure the validity of the resulting data. A sample data set from a biological augmentation product evaluation was used only to illustrate the interpretation of the petroleum chemistry. In this example, conclusions were dependent on the criteria for evaluating the fate of petroleum. As the product evaluation progressed through the petroleum chemistry method, the conclusion on the their effectiveness changed. Therefore, proper interpretation of the petroleum chemistry, which is dependent an the method, is necessary to correctly evaluate the fate of petroleum in the environment.

author list (cited authors)

  • Mills, M. A., McDonald, T. J., Bonner, J. S., Simon, M. A., & Autenrieth, R. L.

citation count

  • 36

publication date

  • December 1999