Comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography-mass spectrometry of complex mixtures of anaerobic bacterial metabolites of petroleum hydrocarbons.
Anaerobic biotransformation of petroleum hydrocarbons is an important alteration mechanism, both subsurface in geological reservoirs, in aquifers and in anoxic deep sea environments. Here we report the resolution and identification, by comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC×GC–MS), of complex mixtures of aromatic acid and diacid metabolites of the anaerobic biodegradation of many crude oil hydrocarbons. An extended range of metabolites, including alkylbenzyl, alkylindanyl, alkyltetralinyl, alkylnaphthyl succinic acids and alkyltetralin, alkylnaphthoic and phenanthrene carboxylic acids, is reported in samples from experiments conducted under sulfate-reducing conditions in a microcosm over two years. The range of metabolites identified shows that the fumarate addition mechanism applies to the alteration of hydrocarbons with up to C8 alkylation in monoaromatics and that functionalisation of up to three ring aromatic hydrocarbons with at least C1 alkylation occurs. The GC×GC–MS method might now be applied to the identification of complex mixtures of metabolites in samples from real environmental oil spills.