Although bicyclic acids have been reported to be the major naphthenic acids in oil sands process-affected water (OSPW) and a well-accepted screening assay indicated that some bicyclics were the most acutely toxic acids tested, none have yet been identified. Here we show by comprehensive multidimensional gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC×GC-MS), that >100 C8-15 bicyclic acids are typically present in OSPW. Synthesis or purchase allowed us to establish the GC×GC retention times of methyl esters of numerous of these and the mass spectra and published spectra of some additional types, allowed us to identify bicyclo[2.2.1]heptane, bicyclo[3.2.1]octane, bicyclo[4.3.0]nonane, bicyclo[3.3.1]nonane and bicyclo[4.4.0]decane acids in OSPW and a bicyclo[2.2.2]octane acid in a commercial acid mixture. The retention positions of authentic bicyclo[3.3.0]octane and bicyclo[4.2.0]octane carboxylic acid methyl esters and published retention indices, showed these were also possibilities, as were bicyclo[3.1.1]heptane acids. Bicyclo[5.3.0]decane and cyclopentylcyclopentane carboxylic acids were ruled out in the samples analysed, on the basis that the corresponding alkanes eluted well after bicyclo[4.4.0]decane (latest eluting acids). Bicyclo[4.2.1]nonane, bicyclo[3.2.2]nonane, bicyclo[3.3.2]decane, bicyclo[4.2.2]decane and spiro[4.5]decane carboxylic acids could not be ruled out or in, as no authentic compounds or literature data were available. Mass spectra of the methyl esters of the higher bicyclic C12-15 acids suggested that many were simply analogues of the acids identified above, with longer alkanoate chains and/or alkyl substituents. Our hypothesis is that these acids represent the biotransformation products of the initially somewhat more bio-resistant bicyclanes of petroleum. Although remediation studies suggest that many bicyclic acids can be relatively quickly removed from suitably treated OSPW, examination by GC×GC-MS may show which isomers are affected most. Knowledge of the structures will allow the toxicity of any residual isomers to be calculated and measured.



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Journal of Chromatography A



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School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences


Bicyclics, GC×GC–MS, Naphthenic acids, Alkanes, Carboxylic Acids, Esters, Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry, Oil and Gas Fields, Petroleum, Water Pollutants, Chemical