Methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE), the widely used gasoline oxygenate, has been identified as a common ground water contaminant, and BTEX compounds (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes) have long been associated with gasoline spills. Because not all instances of ground water contamination by MTBE and BTEX can be attributed to spills or leaking storage tanks, other potential sources need to be considered. In this study, used motor oil was investigated as a potential source of these contaminants. MTBE in oil was measured directly by methanol extraction and gas chromatography using a flame ionization detector (GC/FID). Water was equilibrated with oil samples and analyzed for MTBE, BTEX, and the oxygenate tert-amyl methyl ether (TAME) by purge-and-trap concentration followed by GC/FID analysis. Raoult's law was used to calculate oil-phase concentrations of MTBE, BTEX, and TAME from aqueous-phase concentrations. MTBE, TAME, and BTEX were not detected in any of five new motor oil samples, whereas these compounds were found at significant concentrations in all six samples of the used motor oil tested for MTBE and all four samples tested for TAME and BTEX. MTBE concentrations in used motor oil were on the order of 100 mg/L. TAME concentrations ranged from 2.2 to 87 mg/L. Concentrations of benzene were 29 to 66 mg/L, but those of other BTEX compounds were higher, typically 500 to 2000 mg/L.
Additional publication details
Used motor oil as a source of MTBE, TAME, and BTEX to ground water