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Environ Sci Technol. 2004 Apr 1;38(7):2102-10.

Reduction of benzene and naphthalene mass transfer from crude oils by aging-induced interfacial films.

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  • 1Department of Civil Engineering, McGill University, Macdonald Engineering Building, 817 Sherbrooke Street West, Montreal, Quebec, Canada H3A 2K6.


Semi-rigid films or skins form at the interface of crude oil and water as a result of the accumulation of asphaltene and resin fractions when the water-immiscible crude oil is contacted with water for a period of time or "aged". The time varying patterns of area-independent mass transfer coefficients of two compounds, benzene and naphthalene, for dissolution from crude oil and gasoline were determined. Aqueous concentrations of the compounds were measured in the eluent from flow-through reactors, where a nondispersed oil phase and constant oil-water interfacial area were maintained. For Brent Blend crude oil and for gasoline amended with asphaltenes and resins, a rapid decrease in both benzene and naphthalene mass transfer coefficients over the first few days of aging was observed. The mass transfer coefficients of the two target solutes were reduced by up to 80% over 35 d although the equilibrium partition coefficients were unchanged. Aging of gasoline, which has negligible amounts of asphaltene and resin, did not result in a change in the solute mass transfer coefficients. The study demonstrates that formation of crude oil-water interfacial films comprised of asphaltenes and resins contribute to time-dependent decreases in rates of release of environmentally relevant solutes from crude oils and may contribute to the persistence of such solutes at crude oil-contaminated sites. It is estimated that the interfacial film has an extremely low film mass transfer coefficient in the range of 10(-6) cm/min.

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