For petrochemicals, the main use of gas chromatography is controlling the production of saturated hydrocarbons, olefins and light diolefins. Careful screening of the incoming feedstock, which is cracked in pyrolysis, is required for process troubleshooting as incoming raw materials are highly variable. Chemicals that enter the process can poison catalysts, or may not be condensable and create a negative effect on the heat exchange or distillation processes, specifically sulfur compounds which can corrode equipment, poison catalysts during production and affect polymer yield. Routine measurements of ethane, ethylene, propane and propylene allows for proper control of the cracking operation to optimize process efficiency.

Known advantages of VUV Spectroscopy

  • Unambiguous matching of key analytes including light hydrocarbons
  • Ability to leverage class similarities for simplified analyses such as PIONA
  • Easy optical resolution of chromatographic challenges like isomers, aldehydes, catalyst killers, and water
  • Methods can be automated for multiple analyte targeting such as stream composition, process conversion, and multiple impurity scenarios
  • Enables chromatographic compression for higher analysis productivity
  • Easy to understand quantitative analysis by Beer-Lambert Law, with single order molar absorptivity
petrochemical gas chromatography


Learn more about the VUV PIONA+ product solution for petrochemical analysis by GC-VUV.  It is suitable for use with finished gasoline, reformate, reformer feed, FCC, light naphtha, and heavy naphtha samples.  VUV PIONA+ utilizes a software engine called VUV Analyze that provides automated compositional analysis. Bulk concentrations of the hydrocarbon classes of paraffins, isoparaffins, olefins, naphthenes, and aromatics (PIONA) are analyzed using the VUV Analyze automated data analysis software package.

Watch the PetroIndustry News webinar to learn more about ASTM D8071

Dr. Phillip Walsh describes the 34 minute method that provides total PIONA characterization with a single injection of finished gasoline.

Key features of the of ASTM D8071:

  • Single injection
  • Single 30m Rxi-1ms column
  • ~30 minute run time
  • No traps, pre-column tuning, or calibration requirements
  • No special setup


Bill Winniford of Dow presents at ISCC & GCxGC 2017 how the VUV library correctly identifies individual PIONA compounds up to C6 and compound classes >C6.  He also shows that there is good agreement between GCxGC and VUV PIONA analysis.

Solving Analytical Challenges in Petrochemical

Key Features of VUV Spectroscopy

  • High degree of data analysis automation reduces human error
  • Intuitive spectral fingerprint compound identification and Beer’s Law quantitation eliminates guesswork
  • Software deconvolution of co-eluting analytes allows chromatography runtimes to be deliberately compressed
  • Proprietary algorithms automate compound class characterization

Spectral Identification

Shining a new light in gas chromatography and streaming gas applications.

Everything absorbs strongly in the VUV spectrum. Compounds can be unambiguously identified and quantitated in a variety of applications including oil & gas, forensics, fragrances & flavors, petrochemical, environmental, and life science. VUV detectors provide unmatched selectivity of isomers and co-eluting analytes without the need for chromatographic baseline resolution.  Unlike legacy detection methods, VUV spectroscopy allows for more automated analysis with lower risk of errors, shorter chromatography run times, and higher analytical throughput.

  • Universal, yet selective detector with very sensitive spectral response
  • Easy deconvolution and quantitation of co‑eluting analytes
  • Robust technology with no reliance on vacuum pumps
  • No calibration required – 1st principle detection technique provides a predictable linear response
  • Complements mass spectrometry by fully characterizing isomers and compounds with low mass quant ions
PIONA GC Analysis Addressing the Complexities of Fuels
[LCGC Blog]: Dr. Kevin A. Schug, University of Texas, Arlington
  • “The VUV detector has proven itself with the ability to distinguish olefins and aromatics from aliphatics – that’s a killer application given the complexity and time involved using any other technique. The VUV detector’s ability to perform a more accurate and much more robust PIONA analysis is an important milestone in its ongoing success.”

    Bill Winniford, Fellow

    Bill Winniford, Fellow, The Dow Chemical Company, Houston, Texas, USA

  • “VUV spectroscopy adds a dimension that is complementary to mass spectrometry, offering selectivity that is difficult to otherwise obtain.”

    Hans-Gerd Janssen, Professor and Science Leader

    Hans-Gerd Janssen, Professor, University of Amsterdam, and Science leader, Unilever Research Vlaardingen, the Netherlands

  • “One of the main advantages of VUV detection for us appeared to be the ability to gain more specific molecular information…co-elutions that we know exist but cannot be identified with FID can be unraveled.”

    Pierre Giusti, Molecular Separation & Identification Service Manager, and Gaelle Jousset, Gas Chromatography Laboratory Manager

    Pierre Giusti, Molecular Separation & Identification Service Manager, and Gaelle Jousset, Gas Chromatography Laboratory Manager, Research & Development, TOTAL Refining & Chemicals, Normandy, France

  • “The VUV detector will be used as a universal, calibration-free tool that provides the relative quantitative values of distinct molecules in mixtures in a rapid manner.”

    Luigi Mondello, Chair of ISCC and GCxGC Conference in Riva del Garda, and Professor

    Luigi Mondello, Chair of ISCC and GCxGC Conference in Riva del Garda, and Professor, University of Messina, Italy

  • “One thing that I really like about VUV is that it can be considered a universal detector but with the advantage of being familiar to us. We all used UV spectrometers in school.”

    Nicholas Snow, Professor

    Nicholas Snow, Professor, Seton Hall University, New Jersey, USA

  • “Eliminates ionization inefficiencies that are encountered in mass spectrometry analysis."

    Mark R. Emmett, Ph.D.

    Mark R. Emmett, Ph.D. Professor, The University of Texas Medical Branch Galveston, UTMB Cancer Research Center

  • “An amazingly simple concept extended into a powerful spectral region."

    Tim Hossain, Ph.D.

    Tim Hossain, Ph.D. Chief Scientist, Cerium Laboratories

  • “The VUV detector is a powerful new tool in the GC toolbox."

    Kevin A. Schug, Ph.D.

    Kevin A. Schug, Ph.D. Professor & Shimadzu Distinguished Professor of Analytical Chemistry, The University of Texas at Arlington