Sunday, 27 February 2011

Application of petroleum hydrocarbon chemical fingerprinting and allocation techniques after the Exxon Valdez oil spill

Paul D. Boehm*, Gregory S. Douglas*, William A. Burns, Paul J. Mankiewicz, David S. Page and A. Edward Bence
* Arthur D. Little, Inc., Acorn Park, Cambridge, MA 02140, USA
 Exxon Production Research Company, Houston, TX 77252, USA
 Bowdoin College, Brunswick, ME, USA

Available online 8 June 1998. 


Advances in environmental chemistry laboratory and data interpretation techniques (i.e. chemical fingerprinting) contributed to a better understanding of the biological impact of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill and the fate of the spilled oil. A review of the evolution of petroleum chemical fingerprinting techniques is presented followed by a summarization of how new approaches were used to characterize and differentiate among different petroleum sources in the Prince William Sound region after the spill. An assessment of the initial data suggested that multiple sources of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) were present. These findings were further substantiated, even in samples of low part-per-billion PAH concentrations, by using refined and extended laboratory techniques including the analysis of saturate biomarkers. To interpret these mixtures of sources, fingerprint-analysis flow charts and source allocation techniques were developed and applied to the data, leading to the quantification of the spilled oil as a small increment on the natural hydrocarbon background in subtidal sediments.

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