Companies that violate provincial, state and/or federal regulations regarding hazardous waste are subject to increasingly severe consequences. Mismanagement of hydrocarbon and organic pollutants can have a detrimental effect on human health and the health of the environment.

Element’s environmental experts can test for total petroleum hydrocarbons and other organic pollutants to help you recover and remediate these contaminants from the environment or your process stream. 

Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons (TPH) 

Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons (TPH) are compounds originating from crude oil and refined petroleum products. They are often broken out into fractions depending on the jurisdictional regulations. Our experts can help guide the selection of appropriate hydrocarbon analyses based on these jurisdictional regulatory requirements. Typically, there is a light end, or volatile fraction and a heavier end, or extractable fraction, which may be divided into further fractions.  

It is not practical to measure each hydrocarbon individually but is useful to measure the total amount of all hydrocarbons found together in a particular sample of soil, water, waste or air. The pattern of the hydrocarbon distribution can help to determine the source of contamination. This pattern of distribution is reported as a chromatogram and can act as a fingerprint since each hydrocarbon source produces a unique profile.  

Element’s experts can test for petroleum hydrocarbons using two techniques:

  • The heavier end hydrocarbons are solvent extracted followed by the analysis by Gas Chromatography with Flame Ionization Detector (GC-FID). 
  • The lighter volatile fraction will distribute itself into the headspace of a sealed vial upon heating and a sub-sample from the headspace is analyzed by Gas Chromatography with Mass Spectroscopy (GC-MS).  

Our state-of-the-art laboratories are located across the globe to provide fast and accurate results.

Analysis of other organic pollutants

While hydrocarbons are the most typical organic pollutants analyzed, there is a huge variety of other organic compounds that can be extremely toxic to the environment even at low quantities. These compounds are typically used in various commercial, industrial and agricultural processes and while extremely useful, they can cause serious environmental and human health effects if they are overused or misused. The general categories of substances analyzed at Element include, but are not limited to:

  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) – many of which are known to be or suspected to be carcinogenic.
  • Alcohols, such as methanol, ethanol, and isopropanol.
  • Glycols are typically used as refrigerants in industrial, commercial and residential systems.
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) – extremely recalcitrant compounds and potentially carcinogenic.
  • Chlorinated phenols – the most toxic of this group is pentachlorophenol (PCP) and has been used in creosote based wood preservatives.
  • Volatile Organic Contaminants (VOCs) - an array of compounds that are typically used as solvents in many industrial and commercial processes (e.g. dry cleaning).
  • Amines and sulfolane – used in the oil and gas processing to remove hydrogen sulfide and other toxic gases.  
  • Pesticides, Herbicides – used in both agriculture and industry to suppress certain plants, insects, molds or other organisms that may affect crop yields
  • Sterilants – non-selective disinfectants that are used to prevent plant and microbial growth at industrial and even residential sites (like gravel driveways and fence lines). These compounds are very regulated and not typically used for residential purposes anymore.  

Element can also complete “open scans” to identify and characterize unknown organic waste streams. If the material is unknown, it can be extracted and compared to a library of spectral images to identify these potential concerns. 

For more information on total petroleum hydrocarbon and other organic pollutant testing contact our environmental experts today. 

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