Executive Summary

This introduction to Forensic Environmental Geochemistry gives an overview of the analytical methods and interpretive approaches used by ZymaX Forensics. By combining sophisticated analytical techniques with scientific principles of organic geochemistry, this methodology allows for identification of contaminants and evaluation of their sources, fate and transport in the subsurface environment.

We have developed or modified geochemical analyses that allows us to:

  • identify the types of product which have been released
  • distinguish between similar products from different sources
  • estimate the mixing ratios of different products
  • estimate the age of the product
  • assign probable responsibility for source(s) of the contamination
  • give expert witness testimony and represent either plaintiffs or defendants in litigation

ZymaX Forensics has successfully used these methods to provide scientifically proven evidence in litigation cases in US courts. Few cases end up going to court, as most are settled, when the forensic evidence makes it clear to the parties, who is responsible for what.

The Forensics Primer demonstrates the application of traditional and recently developed analytical methods for escaped hydrocarbon product fingerprinting, using distribution patterns of fuel-specific homologous series for alkanes, alkylcyclohexanes, alkylbenzenes, polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons and polycyclic biomarkers. It also describes criteria for differentiation of natural gas sources based on stable isotope ratio data combined with the gas composition.

These methods include gas chromatography with different detectors, gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, stable isotope ratio mass spectrometry, simulated distillation and thin layer chromatography. Among the refined petroleum products considered are gasoline, specialty solvents (naphtha, mineral spirits, stoddard solvent), kerosene, jet propulsion fuels (JP-4, JP-5, JP-8, Jet A), diesel fuels No.1 and No.2, and Bunker C fuel.

The Primer also describes principles of timing a hydrocarbon fuel release based on the type and composition of various additives and weathering ratios reflecting environmental changes in relative concentration of monoaromatic hydrocarbons, n- and isoalkanes and PAH compounds.

The case studies provided demonstrate the application of the methodology for identification of environmentally altered petroleum products, determining mixing ratio and time of a release.

Next: Introduction to Environmental Forensics

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