Analysis of Petroleum Coke for Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon (PAH) Signatures

Oral Presentation

Prepared by M. Kerr1, M. Caudill2, T. Strock1
1 - USEPA Region 5, 536 S. Clark St., ML-10C, Chicago, IL, 60605, United States
2 - (Prior) U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Air and Radiation Division, 77 W. Jackson Blvd., Chicago, IL, 60604, United States

Contact Information: [email protected]; 312-886-8961


Petroleum coke (petcoke) is a byproduct of the refinement of tar sands and crude oil, and as a byproduct is not currently regulated as a solid waste by the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. When the material is stored outdoors in large uncovered piles, it contributes to nuisance dust and potential health concerns in adjacent communities. Those concerns include risks associated with breathing particulate matter and with petcoke’s constituents, most notably PAHs and toxic metals. Samples from petcoke storage piles and nearby residential window sills and furnace filters were analyzed for PAH by pressurized fluid extraction and gas chromatography/mass spectrometry using selected ion monitoring. The relative abundances of 20 PAHs identified in the source material were compared to surface wipe samples from the nearby residential homes and analyzed for a signature PAH fingerprint for the material. Results are presented for the PAH signature for petcoke analysis and in the context of signatures from another coal derivative, creosote, as well as the metals. Challenges to the application will be discussed, such as subsample variability and chemical weathering. The analysis shows both the limitations and usefulness of pursuing characterization of a specific PAH signature for petcoke as an environmental forensic application to support risk assessment.