In April 1988, approximately 1500 m3 of a San Joaquin Valley crude oil were accidentally released from a Shell Oil Co. refinery near Martinez, Californa. The oil flowed into Carquinez Strait and Suisun Bay in northern San Francisco Bay Sediment and oil samples were collected within a week and analysed for geochemical marker compounds in order to track the molecular signature of the oil spill in the bottom sediment. Identification of the spilled oil in the sediment was complicated by the degraded nature of the oil and the similarity of the remaining, chromatographically resolvable constituents to those already present in the sediments from anthropogenic petroleum contamination, pyrogenic sources, and urban drainage. Ratios of hopane and sterane biomarkers, and of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and their alkylated derivatives best identified the oil impingement. They showed the oil impact at this early stage to be surficial only, and to be patchy even within an area of heavy oil exposure.
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Use of geochemical biomarkers in bottom sediment to track oil from a spill, San Francisco Bay, California