• Roberto BOSCHINI Written by Roberto Boschini, Application Specialist | 12 July 2022

Microwave assisted extraction of hydrocarbons from soils samples.
A comparison with iso 16703:2004


Throughout Europe soil contamination affects almost 250 000 sites and is expected to continue growing. Reports from countries across Europe indicate that heavy metals and mineral oil are the most frequent soil contaminants at investigated sites1 . Mineral oil large-scale use and various applications lead in many cases to environmental contamination. Such contamination may be a consequence of petroleum transport, storage and refining, or accidents2 . Crude petroleum is a complex mixture containing more than 17,000 identified chemical compounds. Saturated and aromatic hydrocarbons represent the majority of non-polar fractions3 . Because there are so many different chemicals in crude oil and in other petroleum products, it is not practical to measure each one separately. However, it is useful to measure the total amount of hydrocarbons at a site. Petroleum crude oils can be broadly divided into paraffinic, asphaltic, and mixed crude oils (WHO 1982). UNI EN ISO 16703:2011 is a method for the determination of content of hydrocarbon in the range C10 to C40 by gas chromatography. EPA 35464 outlines the procedure for microwave extraction of water insoluble or slightly water-soluble organic compounds from soils, clays, sediments, sludges, and solid wastes. This application note represents a guideline for the extraction of hydrocarbons from certified reference material using the official method EPA 3546 in comparison with the UNI EN ISO 16703:2011. Microwave Assisted Solvent Extraction (MASE), enables extractions with reduced solvent volume and time, greatly increase the productivity

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Further reading

  1. European Environment Agency https://www.eea.europa.eu/themes/soil/soil-threats/soil- contamination-from-local-sources
  2. Juteau P, Bisaillon J-G, Lépine F, Ratheau V, Beaudet R, Villemur R. Improving the biotreatment of hydrocarbons- contaminated soils by addition of activated sludge taken from the wastewater treatment facilities of an oil refinery. Biodegradation. 2003;14(1):31–40.
  3. Daghio, M.; Aulenta, F.; Vaiopoulou, E.; Franzetti, A.; Arends, J.; Sherry, A.; Suarez, A.; Head, I.; Bestetti, G.; Rabaey, K. Electrobioremediation of oil spills. Water Res. 2017, 114, 351–370.
  4. EPA 3546- Microwave extraction https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015- 12/documents/3546.pdf
  5. ETHOS X and fastEX-24 eT https://www.milestonesrl.com/products/microwave- extraction/ethos-x-for-environmental
  6. EPA 8015D – Nonhalogenated organics using GC/FID https://www.epa.gov/esam/epa-method-8015d-sw-846- nonhalogenated-organics-using-gcfid

Guidelines for microwave extraction

Ethos X


Extraction of pollutants from solid matrices is often performed with techniques that limit the productivity and have high running costs. The ETHOS™ X with the fastEX-24eT rotor allows for simultaneous extraction of 24 samples in 40 minutes with minimal solvent usage. By using large volume disposable glass vials, the fastEX-24eT rotor simplifies handling and allows to achieve lower detection limits. Typical applications of microwave-assisted solvent extraction include chlorinated pesticides, semi-volatile organics, PAHs, PCBs, chlorinated herbicides, phenols, organophosphorus pesticides, dioxins and furans.
  • High throughput. 24 samples in 40 minutes.
  • Superior return of investment. Substantial reduction in solvent.
  • Simple handling. Disposable glass vials.
  • Consintency & Reproducibility. Consistent and reproducible results.
  • Safety & Reliability.