Recognising the environmental challenges of remediating peat wetlands, global testing company Exova  has developed new test protocols for the analysis of volatile biomarkers that will minimise disruption to these sensitive eco systems.

Using gas chromatography and mass spectral detection (GC/MS) analysis of both pristine peat and petroleum hydrocarbon impacted peat, Exova has developed methodologies to identify levels of toluene in the samples, and whether that toluene is biogenic or petrogenic in origin.

An innovative analytical toolkit, combined with new diagnostic ratios of the biogenic markers, provides a simple and inexpensive forensic analysis that is more straightforward and cost-effective than similar offerings.  As a result, companies involved in the remediation of peat environments can more quickly ascertain levels and sources of toluene in order to determine where to remediate and where no intrusion would be required.

The new test protocols were developed in collaboration with one of Exova’s customers whose primary concern is to deal with contaminated peat environments, and only remove peat impacted with petrogenic hydrocarbons.  

Chris Swyngedouw, group technology leader – chemistry at Exova, said: “This area of forensic analysis is relatively new and existing literature did not provide much insight. In continually striving for innovation we knew that this approach would be beneficial to our customers.

“Many of our long-term customers have been happy to collaborate on special projects like this one. We have been successful in the tests we have conducted this far and we are continuing to advance our capacity and expertise in this technically demanding field.”

Testing for volatile biomarkers in peat is currently conducted at Exova’s laboratory in Calgary, Canada.

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