ABSTRACT: There is a growing need to develop analytical methods that can distinguish compounds found within industrially derived oil sands process water (OSPW) from those derived from natural weathering of oil sands deposits. This is a difficult challenge as possible leakage beyond tailings pond containments will probably be in the form of mixtures of water-soluble organics that may be similar to those leaching naturally into aquatic environments. We have evaluated the potential of negative ion electrospray ionization high-resolution Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry (FTICRMS) for comparing oil sands polar organics from tailing ponds, interceptor wells, groundwater, river and lake surface waters. Principal component analysis was performed for all species observed. which included the O(2) class (often assumed to be monocarbxoylic naphthenic acids) along with a wide range of other species including humic substances in the river and lake samples: O(n) where n=1-16; NO(n) and N(2)O(n) where n=1-13; and O(n)S and O(n)S(2) where n=1-10 and 1-8, respectively. A broad range of species was investigated because classical naphthenic acids can be a small fraction of the 'organics' detected in the polar fraction of OSPW, river water and groundwater. Aquatic toxicity and environmental chemistry are attributed to the total organics (not only the classical naphthenic acids). The distributions of the oil sands polar organics, particularly the sulfur-containing species, O(n)S and O(n)S(2), may have potential for distinguishing sources of OSPW. The ratios of species containing O(n) along with nitrogen-containing species: NO(n), and N(2)O(n), were useful for differentiating organic components derived from OSPW from those found in river and lake waters. Further application of the FTICRMS technique for a diverse range of OSPW of varying ages and composition, as well as the surrounding groundwater wells, may be critical in assessing whether leakage from industrial sources to natural waters is occurring.
Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry 07/2011; 25(13):1899-909. · 2.79 Impact Factor