Characterization of Naphthenic Acids by Gas Chromatography-Fourier Transform Ion Cyclotron Resonance Mass Spectrometry Academic Article uri icon

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  • During the bitumen extraction from the oil sands of Alberta, large volumes of process water containing naphthenic acids are stored in tailing ponds. The naphthenic acids along with other components in the processed waters are known to be toxic in aquatic environments. In view of the complex matrix and the toxicity of the processed waters, there is a need for complementary analytical techniques for comprehensive characterization of the naphthenic acid mixtures. This study reports the online gas chromatographic separation of naphthenic acid mixtures prior to ultrahigh resolution mass spectrometry detection, using electron and chemical ionization. Two oil sands processed water samples and two groundwater samples were characterized to evaluate the performance of the instrumental technique. The high mass resolution of the system enabled visualization of the data using Kendrick mass defect plots. The addition of gas chromatographic separations enabled visualization of the data as unique compound class elution fingerprints. The technique is demonstrated to be a valuable tool for chemical fingerprinting of naphthenic acids.


  • Ortiz, Xavier
  • Jobst, Karl
  • Reiner, Eric J
  • Backus, Sean M
  • Peru, Kerry M
  • McMartin, Dena W
  • O’Sullivan, Gwen
  • Taguchi, Vince Y
  • Headley, John V

publication date

  • August 5, 2014