Solubilization of hydrocarbons by the dissolved organic matter in sea water

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Water samples from Narragansett Bay and the Providence River, and fulvic acid/ saline water solutions were examined for their ability to solubilize n-alkane (n-C16 and n-C20), isoprenoid (pristane) and aromatic (phenanthrene and anthracene) hydrocarbons and dibutyl phthalate. Removal of the dissolved organic matter (D.O.M.) from the natural samples by activated charcoal and by ultra-violet oxidation resulted in a 50-99 per cent decrease in the amounts of n-alkanes and isoprenoid hydrocarbons solubilized. This decrease was directly related to the amount of D.O.M. removed. The solubilities of the aromatic hydrocarbons were unaffected by the D.O.M. Fulvic acid from a marine sediment, surface active organic material isolated at a chloroform/sea water interface, organic material extracted from a marine sediment by sea water, and organic matter contributed by a municipal sewage effluent, promote n-alkane solubility when added to NaCl solutions and re-enhance solubility when added to organic depleted sea water. The solubility of No. 2 fuel oil increased 2.5 times in the presence of fulvic acid (3.7 mg C/l.) with most of the increase seen in the alkane and isoprenoid components. N-Alkane solubility increases in fulvic acid/saline water solutions with increasing pH and reaches a maximum with respect to ionic strength at I = 0.3. There is evidence to suggest that the mode of solubilization of the hydrocarbons is by incorporation into micelles formed by intermolecular association of the surface active humic-type monomers. The presence of ionic species is a prerequisite for micelle formation. © 1973.

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Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta