Sulfur-containing petroleum components such as benzothiophene, dibenzothiophene, naphthobenzothiophene, and their alkyl derivatives are obtained along with aromatic hydrocarbons during the determination of hydrocarbons in marine samples. By using a sulfur-specific flame photometric detector in gas chromatographic analysis, the sulfur-containing components are determined separately from the aromatic hydrocarbons. Individual sulfur-containing components are identified by retention times and mass spectrometry.
It is shown that the fingerprint of sulfur-containing components can be more definitive of an oil source than the corresponding hydrocarbon fingerprint. It is also shown that sulfur-containing components can be preferentially concentrated in the marine environment. The techniques described have been used to identify and quantitate individual sulfur-containing compounds in marine tissue and sediment samples.