Fate of Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons in the Environment

  • Saranya Kuppusamy
  • Naga Raju Maddela
  • Mallavarapu Megharaj
  • Kadiyala Venkateswarlu


An oil spill is the release of liquid petroleum hydrocarbons (PHs) into the environment, especially the terrestrial (land) and aquatic ecosystems, due to human activities, and is a form of pollution. When the oil is spilled, it normally spreads out and moves in and on the surfaces of spilled sites while undergoing several physico-chemical changes. These processes are collectively termed as “weathering” or “oil weathering processes” (OWP) and determine the “fate of the oil.” The speed and relative importance of the processes depend on several factors such as (i) the quantity of spill, (ii) the oil’s initial physical (surface tension, specific gravity, and viscosity) and chemical characteristics, (iii) existing environmental conditions, and (iv) whether the oil remains at or runs off from the spilled site. In land-oil spill, there is a high-level possibility of leaching of spilled oil into groundwater or entering waterways (i.e., rivers and streams) as runoff and to return the soil to productive use as quickly as possible. Various hydrocarbon fractions of spilled oil in marine environments are selectively subjected to evaporation (very volatile fractions), oxidation, and dissolution into the water table (dissolved oxygen combines with oil to produce water-soluble compounds), spreading, accumulation as persistent residues, and biodegradation by microorganisms. In certain cases, the contaminated area can be flooded, wherein oil floats or moves to water surface since some of the fractions of crude oil are lighter (i.e., propane and benzene) than water. The present chapter emphasizes the fate of total petroleum hydrocarbons (TPHs) in various environments immediately after the spill.


Aquatic fate of TPHs Biodegradation of TPHs PAHs Terrestrial fate of TPHs Weathering of TPHs 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Environmental StudiesAnna UniversityChennaiIndia
  2. 2.Facultad de Ciencias de la Salud y Departamento de investigaciónUniversidad Técnica de ManabíPortoviejoEcuador
  3. 3.Global Centre for Environmental RemediationThe University of NewcastleNewcastleAustralia
  4. 4.NelloreIndia

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