This presentation describes a set of chemical tests which have been developed to characterize hydrocarbon fuels released into the environment. The methods examine various homologous series of hydrocarbons including straight chain (paraffins or n-alkanes), branched chain (isoparaffins or isoprenoids), cyclic (naphthenes or alkylated cyclohexanes), polycyclic (steranes and terpanes) and aromatic structures (BTEX, alkylated benzenes, PAH and alkylated PAH compounds and aromatic steranes). Each one of these groups of hydrocarbons has a different tolerance to alteration (evaporation, water washing and biodegradation). When used as an analytical system on environmental samples, the data obtained provide information on fuel type recognition patterns and on degradation levels of the various fuels.

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