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J Chromatogr A. 2009 Jan 30;1216(5):830-6. doi: 10.1016/j.chroma.2008.11.100. Epub 2008 Dec 10.

Fingerprinting and source identification of an oil spill in China Bohai Sea by gas chromatography-flame ionization detection and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry coupled with multi-statistical analyses.

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Key Laboratory of Marine Spill Oil Identification and Damage Assessment Technology, SOA, Qingdao 266033, China.


This paper describes a case study in which advanced chemical fingerprinting and data interpretation techniques were used to characterize the chemical composition and determine the source of an unknown spilled oil reported on the beach of China Bohai Sea in 2005. The spilled oil was suspected to be released from nearby platforms. In response to this specific site investigation need, a tiered analytical approach using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) and gas chromatography-flame ionization detection (GC-FID) was applied. A variety of diagnostic ratios of "source-specific marker" compounds, in particular isomers of biomarkers, were determined and compared. Several statistical data correlation analysis methods were applied, including clustering analysis and Student's t-test method. The comparison of the two methods was conducted. The comprehensive analysis results reveal the following: (1) The oil fingerprinting of three spilled oil samples (S1, S2 and S3) positively match each other; (2) The three spilled oil samples have suffered different weathering, dominated by evaporation with decrease of the low-molecular-mass n-alkanes at different degrees; (3) The oil fingerprinting profiles of the three spilled oil samples are positive match with that of the suspected source oil samples C41, C42, C43, C44 and C45; (4) There are significant differences in the oil fingerprinting profiles between the three spilled oil samples and the suspected source oil samples A1, B1, B2, B3, B4, C1, C2, C3, C5 and C6.

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