MANUAL Published: 17 December 2018

Chapter 23 | Analytical Methods for Determination of Inorganic Species in Petroleum Products and Lubricants: A Focus on New Technologies and Techniques in the Petroleum Industry


Elemental analysis of petroleum products and lubricants provides important information at all stages of the refining process. Since even trace levels of metals can lead to costly problems including reduced product yield, equipment failure, catalyst poisoning, and corrosion, laboratories need to measure a wide range of metals and nonmetals in diverse sample types. The industry must also adhere to strict environmental protocols to prevent contamination during operations or following the decommissioning of petrochemical facilities. As obtaining a representative sample of a petroleum product is a key first stage of any analysis, the overview of sample handling and sample preparation techniques is comprehensive and includes sign-posting to the relevant ASTM standards. To reflect the analytical methods used in well-equipped inorganic testing laboratories, commonly used instrument-based atomic spectroscopy or atomic spectrometry techniques are evaluated. The instrument method of choice for an analysis will depend on various factors, including sample type, detection limits needed, and lab resources. The techniques discussed include the widely used techniques of optical atomic absorption spectroscopy techniques (flame-AAS, graphite furnace-AAS), inductively coupled plasma-atomic emission spectrometry (ICP-AES), ICP-mass spectrometry (ICP-MS), and X-ray fluorescence (XRF). The fundamentals of each technique are described and a comparison of the key parameters of each technique is included. Examples are given of how each technique is used within the industry, including reference to any ASTM standards. In recognition of recent instrumental developments, the merits of microwave plasma-AES (MP-AES) and triple quadrupole ICP-MS (ICP-QQQ) for the petrochemical industry are discussed. The increase in citations of chromatography-based techniques coupled with atomic spectroscopy instruments suggests these techniques will become more routine in the future. As these methods provide further insight into the metals and nonmetals that cause issues in the refinery and at other points in the value chain, a concise overview of gas chromatography (GC) and liquid chromatography (LC) coupled to ICP-AES/ICP-MS is provided. The author expects LC-ICP-MS will become an emerging technique in the industry and one to watch in the future.

Author Information

Nelson, Jenny
Agilent Technologies, Inc., Santa Clara, California, US
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Developed by Committee: D02
Pages: 351–370
DOI: 10.1520/MNL120170025
ISBN-EB: 978-0-8031-7109-1
ISBN-13: 978-0-8031-7108-4