Application of Ion Mobility Spectrometry-Mass Spectrometry for Compositional Characterization and Fingerprinting of a Library of Diverse Crude Oil Samples. Academic Article uri icon


  • Exposure characterization of crude oils, especially in time-sensitive circumstances such as spills and disasters, is a well-known analytical chemistry challenge. Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) is commonly used for "fingerprinting" and origin tracing in oil spills; however, this method is both time-consuming and lacks the resolving power to separate coeluting compounds. Recent advances in methodologies to analyze petroleum substances using high-resolution analytical techniques demonstrated both improved resolving power and higher throughput. One such method, ion mobility spectrometry-mass spectrometry (IMS-MS), is especially promising because it is both rapid and high-throughput, with the ability to discern among highly homologous hydrocarbon molecules. Previous applications of IMS-MS to crude oil analyses included a limited number of samples and did not perform detailed characterization of chemical constituents. The current study analyzed a diverse library of 195 crude oil samples using IMS-MS and applied a computational workflow to assign molecular formulas to individual features. The oils were from 12 groups based on geographical and geological origins - non-US (1 group), US onshore (3), and US Gulf of Mexico offshore (8). We hypothesized that information acquired through IMS-MS data will provide a more confident grouping and yield additional fingerprints. Chemical composition data from IMS-MS was used for unsupervised hierarchical clustering, as well as machine learning-based supervised analysis to predict geographic and source rock categories for each sample; the latter also yielded several novel prospective biomarkers for fingerprinting of crude oils. We found that IMS-MS data has complementary advantages for fingerprinting and characterization of diverse crude oils and that the proposed polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) biomarkers can be used for rapid exposure characterization.

published proceedings

  • Environ Toxicol Chem

author list (cited authors)

  • Cordova, A. C., Dodds, J. N., Tsai, H., Lloyd, D. T., Roman-Hubers, A. T., Wright, F. A., ... Rusyn, I.

complete list of authors

  • Cordova, Alexandra C||Dodds, James N||Tsai, Han-Hsuan D||Lloyd, Dillon T||Roman-Hubers, Alina T||Wright, Fred A||Chiu, Weihsueh A||McDonald, Thomas J||Zhu, Rui||Newman, Galen||Rusyn, Ivan

publication date

  • August 2023