Chemical Analysis of Water-accommodated Fractions of Crude Oil Spills Using TIMS-FT-ICR MS

J Vis Exp. 2017 Mar 3;(121):55352. doi: 10.3791/55352.


Multiple chemical processes control how crude oil is incorporated into seawater and also the chemical reactions that occur overtime. Studying this system requires the careful preparation of the sample in order to accurately replicate the natural formation of the water-accommodated fraction that occurs in nature. Low-energy water-accommodated fractions (LEWAF) are carefully prepared by mixing crude oil and water at a set ratio. Aspirator bottles are then irradiated, and at set time points, the water is sampled and extracted using standard techniques. A second challenge is the representative characterization of the sample, which must take into consideration the chemical changes that occur over time. A targeted analysis of the aromatic fraction of the LEWAF can be performed using an atmospheric-pressure laser ionization source coupled to a custom-built trapped ion mobility spectrometry-Fourier transform-ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometer (TIMS-FT-ICR MS). The TIMS-FT-ICR MS analysis provides high-resolution ion mobility and ultrahigh-resolution MS analysis, which further allow the identification of isomeric components by their collision cross-sections (CCS) and chemical formula. Results show that as the oil-water mixture is exposed to light, there is significant photo-solubilization of the surface oil into the water. Over time, the chemical transformation of the solubilized molecules takes place, with a decrease in the number of identifications of nitrogen- and sulfur-bearing species in favor of those with a greater oxygen content than were typically observed in the base oil.

Publication types

  • Video-Audio Media

MeSH terms

  • Mass Spectrometry / methods*
  • Petroleum / analysis*
  • Seawater / chemistry*
  • Water / chemistry*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis*


  • Petroleum
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Water