Isolation and estimation of the 'aromatic' naphthenic acid content of an oil sands process-affected water extract
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The naphthenic acids of oil sands process-affected water (OSPW) are said to be important toxicants. The major acids are stated to have alicyclic structures and recently, numerous of these have been identified, but some evidence suggests 'aromatic' acids are also present. The proportions of such acids have not been reported because they exist in so-called supercomplex mixtures with the alicyclic species. Their contribution to the toxicity of OSPW, if any, is therefore unknown. Here we report the use of multidimensional comprehensive gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC × GC-MS) with polar first dimension and non-polar second dimension GC columns and argentation solid phase extraction, to separate methyl esters of the acids of an OSPW supercomplex, into distinct fractions. A major fraction (ca 70%) was shown to contain acids (methyl esters) previously identified as alicyclic species. Authentic adamantane acid methyl esters were shown to chromatograph in this fraction. This fraction was isolated by argentation solid phase extraction (SPE) by elution with hexane. GC-MS and GC × GC-MS confirmed this to be the major fraction in the original supercomplex containing alicyclic acids (methyl esters). A second fraction shown to contain monoaromatic acids (methyl esters) by GC × GC-MS was unexpectedly abundant (ca 30% relative to the acyclic acids). The naphtheno-aromatic dehydroabietic acid was confirmed by co-injection with an authentic compound and several acids previously tentatively identified as naphtheno-monoaromatics were present. This fraction was isolated by argentation SPE by elution with more polar 5% diethyl ether in hexane. GC-MS and GC × GC-MS confirmed that the fraction represented a significant proportion of the original supercomplex. A further fraction, eluting from the argentation SPE column with more 5% diethyl ether in hexane in the same retention volume as authentic methyl naphthoate, contained, in addition to some of the second fraction, a third, much more minor complex. This had somewhat similar GC × GC retention characteristics to that of methyl naphthoate and the methyl ester of authentic fluorene-9-carboxylic acid. Spectra are reported. Non-alicyclic, mono- and possibly diaromatic acids are a much more quantitatively significant proportion of OSPW than previously realised. The individual acids need to be better identified and the toxicity of these and other SPE fractions studied in order to assess any possible environmental effects of OSPW. © 2012 Elsevier B.V.
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