Measurement of contamination of marine and naval diesel fuels (arising from product mixing or adulteration) with biodiesel or fatty acid methyl esters can be problematic, especially at very low levels. A suitable solution for this task for trace amounts of individual fatty acid methyl esters with resolution and quantification can be achieved by using a multidimensional gas chromatographic approach with electron and chemical ionization mass spectrometric detection. A unique column set comprising a 100 m methyl-siloxane nonpolar first dimension column and high-temperature ionic liquid column in the second dimension enabled identification of individual fatty acid methyl esters at below the lowest concentrations required to be reported in a diesel fuel matrix. Detection limits for individual fatty acid methyl esters compounds ranged from 0.5 to 5.0 mg/L, with excellent linearity up to 5000 mg/L and repeatability of the method from 1.3 to 3.2%. The method was applied to the analysis of diesel fuel samples with suspected biodiesel contamination. Contamination at 568 mg/L was calculated for an unknown sample and interpretation of the results permitted the determination of a likely source of the contamination.
Keywords: Biodiesel; Chemical Ionization; Fatty acid methyl esters; Fuel contamination; Multidimensional chromatography.
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