The permitted hydrocarbon content of discharged water from offshore oil and gas exploration is becoming increasingly limited by more stringent legislation. This creates the demand for measurement methods that are sensitive enough to detect contaminants at ppm level, but also compact and robust to field conditions. The group of Professor Mike Johns at the University of Western Australia in Perth has developed a benchtop NMR method to quantify the hydrocarbon content in water at the ppm level.
In an earlier post on qNMR we described how benchtop NMR can be used to quantify the concentration of a sample or measure its purity. When such quantitative methods are validated, there are standard requirements for accuracy, precision, range, and linearity over that range that need to be met.
For example, the United States Pharmacopeia (USP) specifies the general requirements for a Category I NMR method when measuring a drug substance (there are other specifications for finished products and impurities). These specifications are listed in the table at the end of this post and are compared to the measured Spinsolve performance.
We have validated the Spinsolve benchtop qNMR performance by measuring the purity of one reference standard, methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), with another, maleic acid. Maleic acid is a common reference standard for qNMR, so this was used as the reference to measure the known purity of MSM (specified 99.5% pure). A spectrum of the mixture in D2O is shown in Figure 1.
Quantification using any analytical method requires calibrating an instrumental response with a known reference, and then calculating the concentration of an unknown sample from the measured instrument response. One advantage of NMR compared to other analytical methods is that the signal response is linear, resulting the NMR signal intensity being proportional to the number of nuclei.
Sample concentrations and purities can be easily measured from known peaks once the proportionality constant is calibrated using a reference of known concentration and purity. Such measurement methods are known as quantitative NMR, or qNMR for short.