Our experience, expertise and extensive fuel database of more than 1 million samples has enabled us to develop innovative proprietary test methods to detect fuel contaminants and then understand the impact of burning these fuels. There is no current international test method which can detect all chemical species within fuels. Therefore we, over the past 20 years, have led the industry in the development of chemical contamination methodologies.
When it comes to organic contamination, a huge variety of substances can be found in fuel. We have identified many different substances that are not usually found in fuels including, alkenes, aldehydes, alcohols, chlorinated hydrocarbons, esters, heterocyclic compounds, ketones, fatty acids, phenolic compounds, styrenes and others.
We have a list of target compounds that we look for – these compounds have been identified from the forensic GCMS analyses we have performed over the past 20 years, with more than 7,000 samples tested.
Gas Chromatography – Mass Specrometry Headspace
We have developed a rapid proprietary GCMS-Headspace method to screen fuels for the presence of volatile organic contaminants, (for example: chlorinated solvents, phenols, styrene…) which are the main chemical contaminants found within fuels.
Should a “caution” result come from the GCMS-HS screen, we can then perform an extended headspace analysis:
GCMS Headspace Extended is a longer proprietary method for testing fuel to detect the presence of volatile organic contaminants over an extended time period. This provides better separation of the specific compounds, enabling improved selectivity as compared to the GCMS Headspace Screening method. As such, the Extended method can identify specific chemical contaminants and is used to confirm the Screening method.
GCMS Vacuum Distillation
We have developed a proprietary GCMS-Vacuum distillation method for the detection of all volatile and semi-volatile organic contaminants within a fuel over a certain temperature range.
The benefit of using vacuum distillation is that it cuts a semi-volatile fraction from the fuel and this eliminates the majority of fuel since it is relatively involatile. However, it should be noted that fuels contain some hydrocarbon volatile organic compounds, so it is important to differentiate between these hydrocarbons (contain C and H only) and volatile organic contaminants (contain other atoms including O, Cl, etc).
The temperature range is determined by the vacuum distillation conditions. Under vacuum conditions, distillation of compounds takes place at lower temperature compared to distillation at atmospheric temperature and these milder conditions prevent the thermal decomposition of heat sensitive compounds.
One advantage of vacuum distillation is that the compounds that are distilled and then detected by GCMS are the same as those present in the original sample. A second advantage is that these compounds can be quantified.
GCMS – Acid Extraction
We have developed a proprietary GCMS acid extraction method for the qualitative method detection of all organic acids in fuel. The benefit of using acid extraction is that it selectively extracts all acids from the fuel, which eliminates the hydrocarbon matrix as this is non-polar. Our method is therefore both highly selective and highly sensitive to organic acids. A second advantage is that these detected compounds can be quantified.
What Chemicals Can be Found in Fuels?
Over the past 20 years, we have detected many chemicals within fuel, undertaken numerous detailed forensic investigations and assisted hundreds of clients, resolve the cause of engine damage, fuel injector failures, blocked filters, to name but a few of the symptoms chemical contaminants can cause.
Potentially there are hundreds of thousands of chemicals which could be found in fuel. At low concentrations, these are normally harmless. However, as concentrations increase, then there can be many problems which can result from their presence, from blocked filters, sludging within purifiers, fuel injection failures, cylinder liner damage and exhaust system failures.