One of the unique features of COGRAD is that it actively engages in R&D activities. COGRAD’s R&D activities are driven in part by needs identified by our industrial partners. For example, COGRAD is working on improving the detection limits associated with measuring components known to be present in crude oil like polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). In addition, there is ongoing research to improve on detection and accurate analysis of alkylated PAHs which will aide in meaningful source apportionment indicators that has been a primary focus of the oil sands monitoring programs.
COGRAD is also developing diagnostic tools able to ‘fingerprint’ constituents of crude oil mixtures unique to given deposits in order to identify potential negative health impacts on aquatic organisms. Forensic fingerprinting studies are also important to industry as it identifies sources of emissions to the environment and delineates the extent of environmental contamination aiding in remediation activities.
COGRAD is also developing new remediative and passive sample devices (PSD) for low molecular weight PAHs. Current PSDs uptake low MW PAHs with very poor efficiency, and therefore these compounds are often sampled from organisms in the area, which can be expensive, time consuming, and highly variable. Our new PSDs rely on the compound RHCC, which was originally isolated from the microorganism S. marinus that lives in the extreme environments around hydrothermal vents at the ocean floor. RHCC naturally sequesters nonpolar compounds similar in size to the low MW PAHs that are essential for the microorganism life cycle. Starting with the scaffold provided by mother-nature we have cut down RHCC into a robust and easily purified unit that rapidly and with high affinity binds low MW PAHs. We are currently testing the RHCC-PSD in simulated oil spill environments.