American Chemical Society
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An Added Dimension: GC Atmospheric Pressure Chemical Ionization FTICR MS and the Athabasca Oil Sands

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journal contribution
posted on 2014-08-19, 00:00 authored by Mark P. Barrow, Kerry M. Peru, John V. Headley
The Athabasca oil sands industry, an alternative source of petroleum, uses large quantities of water during processing of the oil sands. In keeping with Canadian environmental policy, the processed water cannot be released to natural waters and is thus retained on-site in large tailings ponds. There is an increasing need for further development of analytical methods for environmental monitoring. The following details the first example of the application of gas chromatography atmospheric pressure chemical ionization Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry (GC-APCI-FTICR MS) for the study of environmental samples from the Athabasca region of Canada. APCI offers the advantages of reduced fragmentation compared to other ionization methods and is also more amenable to compounds that are inaccessible by electrospray ionization. The combination of GC with ultrahigh resolution mass spectrometry can improve the characterization of complex mixtures where components cannot be resolved by GC alone. This, in turn, affords the ability to monitor extracted ion chromatograms for components of the same nominal mass and isomers in the complex mixtures. The proof of concept work described here is based upon the characterization of one oil sands process water sample and two groundwater samples in the area of oil sands activity. Using the new method, the Ox and OxS compound classes predominated, with OxS classes being particularly relevant to the oil sands industry. The potential to resolve retention times for individual components within the complex mixture, highlighting contributions from isomers, and to characterize retention time profiles for homologous series is shown, in addition to the ability to follow profiles of double bond equivalents and carbon number for a compound class as a function of retention time. The method is shown to be well-suited for environmental forensics.