National Water Quality Laboratory

Monday October 02, 2023

USGS Fact Sheet FS-086-98

Laboratory Method for Analysis of Small Concentrations of Methyl tert-Butyl Ether and Other Ether Gasoline Oxygenates in Water

Donna L. Rose, Brooke F. Connor, Sonja R. Abney, and Jon W. Raese

September 1998

This Fact Sheet presents data for analysis of nanogram-per-liter concentrations of methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) and three other ether gasoline oxygenates, including methyl tert-pentyl ether (TAME), diisopropyl ether (DIPE), and ethyl tert-butyl ether (ETBE), by purge-and-trap capillary-column gas chromatography/mass stectrometry. Long-term method detection levels (LT-MDLs) for MTBE, TAME, DIPE, and ETBE ranged from 15 to 83 nanograms per liter (0.015 to 0.083 microgram per liter). Nanogram-per-liter-concentration detections are reported if all of the identification criteria are met, whereas previous methods censored detections at a pre-determined method reporting level. The reporting level for this method is defined as two times the LT-MDL, does not censor detections at less than this concentration, and is referred to as the nondetection value (NDV). Bias and variability data from multiple analyses, analysts, and instruments over a 60-day period show the oxygenate recoveries ranging from 100 to 109 percent, with 6 to 8 percent relative standard deviation. MTBE, TAME, DIPE, and ETBE were not detected in the analysis of 225 laboratory reagent blanks from January to December 1997. A preservation study in ground water and surface water indicates that all the oxygenates are stable at pH 2 for up to 216 days, with recoveries ranging from 94 to 115 percent on day 216, and relative standard deviations ranging from 5 to 9 percent for the duration of the study. A full description of this purge-and-trap method is available in Connor and others (1998).

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