Degradation Pathways for Geogenic Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in Soil Gases from the Solfatara Crater (Campi Flegrei, Southern Italy).
Thursday, 18 December 2014
The chemical composition of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in soil gases from the Solfatara crater (Campi Flegrei, Southern Italy) was analyzed to investigate the effects of biogeochemical processes occurring within the crater soil on gases discharged from the hydrothermal reservoir and released into the atmosphere through diffuse degassing. In this system, two fumarolic vents (namely Bocca Grande and Bocca Nuova) are the preferential pathways for hydrothermal fluid uprising. For our goal, the chemistry of VOCs discharged from these sites were compared to that of soil gases. Our results highlighted that C4-C9 alkanes, alkenes, S-bearing compounds and alkylated aromatics produced at depth were the most prone to degradation processes, such as oxidation-reduction and hydration-dehydration reactions, as well as to microbial activity. Secondary products, which were enriched in sites characterized by low soil gas fluxes, mostly consisted of aldheydes, ketons, esters, ethers, organic acids and, subordinately, alcohols. Benzene, phenol and hydrofluorocarbons (HCFCs) produced at depth were able to transit through the soil almost undisturbed, independently on the emission rate of diffuse degassing. The presence of cyclics was possibly related to an independent low-temperature VOC source, likely within sedimentary formations overlying the hydrothermal reservoir. Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were possibly due to air contamination. This study demonstrated the strict control of biogeochemical processes on the behaviour of hydrothermal VOCs that, at least at a local scale, may have a significant impact on air quality. Laboratory experiments conducted at specific chemical-physical conditions and in presence of different microbial populations may provide useful information for the reconstruction of the degradation pathways controlling fate and behaviour of VOCs in the soil.