Skip to content


Helgoland Marine Research

Open Access

Analysis for petroleum products in marine environments

  • D. C. Malins1,
  • M. M. Krahn1,
  • D. W. Brown1,
  • W. D. MacLeodJr.1 and
  • T. K. Collier1
Helgoländer Meeresuntersuchungen33:BF02414751


Petroleum is composed of a complex mixture of hydrocarbons that readily undergo chemical and biological conversions on entering aquatic environments. These conversions lead to the formation of a host of oxygenated products, some of which are potentially toxic to marine life and to the consumer of fishery products. State-of-the-art analytical methods, as employed in our laboratories, utilize glass-capillary gas chromatography in conjunction with mass spectrometry to analyze environmental samples containing trace amounts of aliphatic and aromatic petroleum hydrocarbons. These procedures are applied on a routine basis to the analysis of seawater, sediments and tissues of marine organisms. Despite this analytical proficiency, a need exists for analyzing oxygenated and other polar petroleum products in environmental samples. For example, techniques such as high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), in conjunction with on-line fluorometric assay techniques and mass spectrometry, make possible the analysis of polar oxygenated compounds resulting from both chemical and biological conversions. These methodologies are first steps toward the development of routine assay procedures for environmental samples. Current techniques for hydrocarbon analyses and new methods for analyzing polar aromatic compounds are discussed.