Assessment of oil weathering by gas chromatography–mass spectrometry, time warping and principal component analysis

Linus Mattias Valdemar Malmquist, Rasmus Rørdam Olsen, Asger B. Hansen, Ole Andersen, Jan Henning Christensen

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftartikelForskningpeer review


Detailed characterization and understanding of oil weathering at the molecular level is an essential part of tiered approaches for forensic oil spill
identification, for risk assessment of terrestrial and marine oil spills, and for evaluating effects of bioremediation initiatives. Here, a chemometricbased
method is applied to data from two in vitro experiments in order to distinguish the effects of evaporation and dissolution processes on oil
composition. The potential of the method for obtaining detailed chemical information of the effects from evaporation and dissolution processes,
to determine weathering state and to distinguish between various weathering processes is investigated and discussed. The method is based on
comprehensive and objective chromatographic data processing followed by principal component analysis (PCA) of concatenated sections of gas
chromatography–mass spectrometry chromatograms containing homologue series of n-alkanes (m/z 85) and alkyltoluenes (m/z 105). The PCA
model based solely on in vitro samples and validated by samples from an authentic marine oil spill gives a detailed description of the temporal
changes in n-alkane and alkyltoluene compositions. The PCA model is able to distinguish the two physical weathering processes both with respect
to removal rate and relative changes. The model shows that evaporation has a large impact on both the alkyltoluenes and on the n-alkanes (e.g.,
nC-18 is completely removed after 192 days of in vitro evaporation). Dissolution, however, is shown to be a much slower process for weathering
of heavy fuel oils with only limited impact on the alkyltoluenes, and no effects on the n-alkane distribution.
TidsskriftJournal of Chromatography A
Udgave nummer1-2
Sider (fra-til)262-270
Antal sider9
StatusUdgivet - 2007


  • Oil weathering
  • Chemometrics
  • Evaporation
  • Dissolution
  • Chemical fingerprinting
  • Correlation optimized warping
  • Principal component analysis

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