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Acc Chem Res. 2004 Jan;37(1):53-9.

Petroleomics: the next grand challenge for chemical analysis.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida 32306, USA.


Ultrahigh-resolution Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry has recently revealed that petroleum crude oil contains heteroatom-containing (N,O,S) organic components having more than 20,000 distinct elemental compositions (C(c)H(h)N(n)O(o)S(s)). It is therefore now possible to contemplate the ultimate characterization of all of the chemical constituents of petroleum, along with their interactions and reactivity, a concept we denote as "petroleomics". Such knowledge has already proved capable of distinguishing petroleum and its distillates according to their geochemical origin and maturity, distillation cut, extraction method, catalytic processing, etc. The key features that have opened up this new field have been (a) ultrahigh-resolution FT-ICR mass analysis, specifically, the capability to resolve species differing in elemental composition by C(3) vs SH(4) (i.e., 0.0034 Da); (b) higher magnetic field to cover the whole mass range at once; (c) dynamic range extension by external mass filtering; and (d) plots of Kendrick mass defect vs nominal Kendrick mass as a means for sorting different compound "classes" (i.e., numbers of N, O, and S atoms), "types" (rings plus double bonds), and alkylation ((-CH(2))(n)) distributions, thereby extending to >900 Da the upper limit for unique assignment of elemental composition based on accurate mass measurement. The same methods are also being applied successfully to analysis of humic and fulvic acids, coals, and other complex natural mixtures, often without prior or on-line chromatographic separation.

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