I received my Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the University of Sydney (Australia) in 1972 and my D.Sc. degree from the same University in 1998. I then spent one and a half years as a post-doctoral fellow with Professor G. Eglinton at the University of Bristol (England) undertaking research in various aspects of organic geochemistry and the application of analytical techniques such as gas chromatography-mass spectrometry to this area of research. Following this, I spent four years at the University of California, Berkeley, as a research associate, directing the organic geochemistry research group of Professor Melvin Calvin. I returned to Sydney in 1977 to join the CSIRO, Fuel Geoscience Unit, now part of the Division of Fossil Fuels, where I was a principal research scientist studying various aspects of petroleum geochemistry. In June 1984, I joined the faculty at the University of Oklahoma. Recently a large amount of my research has been concerned with environmental studies and particularly investigating the use of stable carbon isotopes as a means of monitoring and tracking pollutants in the environment. Professional activities: associate editor of I. Environmental Forensics, and Chairman of the Geochemistry Division of the American Chemical Society, 1993-1995.
DDT in the 60s; Dioxin in the 70s; PCBs in the 80s; MTBE in the 90s; PBDEs in the 00s and on it goes-What will be the next environmental problem child?
The past few decades have seen a number of chemicals become notorious for their long terms effects on the environment and, in some cases, the health of humans and animals. These compounds have been commonly as persistent organic pollutants or POPs. MTBE gained "super star" status attached to these chemicals in the late 1990s and in the first decade of the 21st Century. Little was known about the properties of the compound and its effect on the environment. In 1998, at least 3.1 billion gallons of MTBE were produced in the US and 1.2 billion gallons were imported. Every day in California, 43 tons of MTBE entered the atmosphere through car exhausts. Since then many other compounds have come into the spotlight such as polybrominated diphenylethers, ethylene dibromide, ethanol and many others. The purpose of this talk is to shine the light on some of these compounds that are relatively stable in the environment and hence very persistent. Where do they come from? What happens to them when they get into the environment? If they degrade are the degradation products more toxic than the original pollutant? These and many other questions of significant environmental concern will be discussed in this presentation.
The Fracking Revolution in the Oil and Gas Business
Despite the current drop in oil and gas prices hydro-fracturing, or fracking, is here to stay. There are many misleading facts about fracking that persist in the popular press which should be discussed and that is one purpose of this talk. First fracking is not new-it has been used in the oil and gas business for years. However what is new is the combination of horizontal drilling combined with fracking. Horizontal drilling was developed in the in the time period 2000-2006, primarily in the Barnett Shale in the Fort Worth Basin and the shale gas play was developed. This lead to an explosion in the amount of natural gas available and the inevitable drop in natural gas prices. The horizontal drilling and fracking was then used in oil exploration and then lead to production of unprecedented amounts of oil from basins thought to be almost totally depleted. This of course lead to the current situation where the price of oil has dropped dramatically and exploration has slowed significantly. However there are many interesting areas to discuss here. For example Oklahoma is currently experiencing swarms of earthquakes blamed on the fracking. However it is not the fracking causing the earthquakes it is almost certainly from all the produced water being re-injected into disposal wells. Does the fracking cause contamination of the ground water? Inevitably this may happen in some cases but remember if that happens the oil companies end up producing water not oil or gas-not good for them or the local population. There are many interesting questions to discuss that result from the fracking revolution and many of these will be discussed in this presentation.
Environmental Forensics, or Who Was Responsible for the Spill?
As soon as organic compounds are spilled into the environment, chances will start to occur to them as a result of weathering process. For example with crude oils, changes will range from evaporation and loss of light ends to extensive biodegradation and loss of many of the compounds typically used for correlating spilled oils with their original source. As a result of these weathering processes, it is often difficult to correlate the spilled oils with their suspected sources. It is essential that these correlations be made to determine who is responsible for the spill and who pays for the clean-up process. There are a number of sophisticated techniques available for this type of forensic geochemistry which can be used for correlating weathered samples with their respective source materials. In this talk specific emphasis will be directed towards the most recent technique for use in this area namely gas chromatography combined with isotope ratio mass spectrometry (GCIRMS). Examples will be presented to demonstrate that the isotopic composition of individual compounds in complex mixtures, such as crude oils, can be used to correlate them with their weathered counterparts. It is clear from the results that GCIRMS is a powerful new tool in forensic geochemistry particularly when combined with the more traditional techniques such as GC and GCMS. Other applications will be described to demonstrate that GCIRMS can also be used to determine the source of leaks from underground storage tanks and sources of gases from leaking pipelines. Variations in the isotopic composition of the MTBE added to gasolines also provides the opportunity of using GCIRMS as a means of monitoring, and determination of the source of, gasoline spills from underground storage tanks. Applications are many and varied but with this relatively new technique the ability to correlate heavily weathered samples with their unweathered counterparts has been elevated to a new level and provided forensic geochemistry with a new dimension.
University of Oklahoma
School of Geology and Geophysics
Norman, OK, United States, 73019