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Alkylcyclohexanes in environmental geochemistry

January 1, 2002

Two case studies of oil spills that demonstrate the changing distribution patterns resulting from long-term anaerobic microbial degradation were presented. These spills were the 1979 crude-oil spill in Bemidji, MN, and a chronic diesel-fuel spillage from 1953-1991 at Mandan, ND. The alkylcyclohexanes in both spilled oil products were affected by similar biodegradative processes in which the compounds underwent a consistent pattern of loss from the high molecular weight end of the homolog distribution. Degradation resulted in a measurable increase in the concentrations of the homologs in the lower molecular weight range, a gradual lowering in carbon number of the homolog maximum, and a gradual decrease of the total homolog range from the high molecular weight end. The Mandan diesel fuel spill showed that the progressive enhancement of the low-molecular-mass n-alkane and n-alkylcyclohexane homologs reflected an absolute increase in their concentrations as the high-molecular-mass homologs were diminishing. These degradation patterns were different from those observed in aerobic or physically weathered systems, where loss of n-alkenes and other aliphatic homologs occurred from the low molecular weight end of the distributions. Spilled diesel and other mid-cut refinery fuels were defined by the range and distribution of the n-alkylcyclohexanes. If the biodegradation has progressed well into or beyond n-alkane loss and to the stage of low-molecular-mass n-alkylcyclohexane enhancement and high-molecular-mass loss, the hydrocarbon pattern could be erroneously attributed to other lower-range middle distillate fuels or admixtures of fuels. This is an abstract presented at the 25th Arctic and Marine OilSpill Program Technical Seminar (Calgary, Alberta, 6/11-13/2002).

Citation Information

Publication Year 2002
Title Alkylcyclohexanes in environmental geochemistry
Authors F. D. Hostettler, K. A. Kvenvolden
Publication Type Conference Paper
Publication Subtype Conference Paper
Index ID 70024139
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse