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Petroleum hydrocarbons content in coral reefs sediments from Red Sea of Yemen.


The widespread of oil pollution in the Red Sea is not surprising (Wennink and Nelson --Smith, 1979; Dicks, 1987). Although enough data are not available for the Red Sea, probably the pattern may be similar to that of the Arabian Gulf, which suggests that the impacts from tanker and ship traffic are most important (Linden, et al1990). Nevertheless evidence suggests that oil pollution from these sources has a far greater effect on the marine environment than accidental spills, An example of a chronic oil pollution sources on the Yemen coast is the authorized discharge of ballast water effluent of the SAFER supertanker storage at Ras Isa. However, the problem of passing vessels deballasting in the Gulf of Aden or the Red Sea appears to be the greater cause of oil pollution on ROY water. There are two power stations supplied by under water pipelines, Ras Kathenib and Al-Mocha. Both receive heavy fuel oil via pipeline. Oil pollution into the coastal area has seriously, endangered the Red Sea coastal ecosystem along the Saudi coast (Behairy and Saad, 1982).The Red Sea coast of Yemen is also expected to have been affected. A preliminary survey along the Red Sea coast of Yemen showed that oil- related pollutants concentrated in region, especially around oil loading terminals and some industrial areas, while beach tar is widespread along Yemeni coast (Rushdi et al1991 ; Al-Shwafi,2000; Ba-Isa and Al-Shwafi, 2005).

To the best of our knowledge, there is almost no available information's concerning the quantity and the extent of oil spills, although oil spills and oil sheen have been observed and reported several times by local fishermen and citizens along the shore line and the inter tidal sediments.

The present study was under taken to fill the lacuna in our knowledge on the present status of oil concentration in the coral reefs sediments of Red Sea of Yemen.


The objectives of the present study were to:

(1) Determine residue levels of petroleum hydrocarbons in various matrixes in the coral reefs sediments of Red Sea of Yemen, and attempt to identify the most important sources/s of contamination to the region.

(2) Shed some light on the sub-lethal effects of petroleum hydrocarbons on commercial fishes in the Red Sea coast of Yemen, as well as its possible implications with human health who consumes them.

(3) Collected and review relevant existing data and arrange the results that obtained during the project in a manner thus to serve as a baseline data for further follow- up project in the region.


Sample collection

Sediments have been used for monitoring contaminates in the environment (Farrington et al.,1983). It is well established that aquatic sediments are the final accumulation site of water- borne constitutes derived from natural sources (living organisms and their detritus) in situ and surrounding, and artificial (domestic, urban-industrial and agricultural wastes) sources (DouAbul et al 1984 ; Ba-Isa and Al-Shwafi, 2005).

Based upon the foregoing argument samples of coral reefs sediments were collected from 6 station in the marine environmental Red Sea of Yemen in two occasions. The first occasion was during 15-22 July 2008 while the second was during 15-22 December 2008 in order to give more accurate results of the type and level of studied pollutants and to take into account the extreme seasonal variation especially in regards to monsoon and other variation e.g. water temperature, wind driven waves, tidal currents, suspended particulate matter and others. The sites were shown in (Figure,1).

The sediment samples were dried- off water, placed in screw capped glass jars and stored frozen in the Department of Earth and Environmental Science till time of analysis.


Sample pre- treatment

Just before analysis, sediment samples were thawed, dried in an oven 40 [degrees] C overnight, ground by an agate mortar. Because of the non- homogeneous nature of these sediments, they were sieved through a 63 [micro] sieve (silt and clay fraction).



All solvents were redistilled in an all- glass distillation apparatus equipped With a 150-cm vacuum-jacketed fractionation column filled with 3mm diameter glass helices. Blanks of 1000- fold concentrates were determined by gas chromatography with flame ionization detection. The gas chromatograph was a Hewlet packard HP5980-GC with split/ splitless injector furnished with a 25m x 0.3mm fused silica capillary with a chemically bonded gum phase SE54. Water used for cleaning the adsorption resin and sample work- up was purified with a Millipore milli-Q system. Sodium chloride and sodium sulfate were Kiln fired at 450[degrees]C overnight and cooled in a greasless desiccators. Silica gel used for column chromatography was solvent extracted with n-hexane in a glass cartridge inserted into an extraction apparatus, as described by Ehrhardt (1987). After extraction, the Silica gel was first dried in the same cartridge by passing ultra pure nitrogen through it and was then activated by heating the cartridge in an electric tube oven to 200[degrees]C for 6 h with the stream of nitrogen reduced to a few ml per minute.


The extraction method is that of Wade et al., (1988). A total of 10g of dry sediment was Soxhlet- extracted with methylene chloride and concentrated in Kuderna- Danish tubes. The extracts were fractionated by alumina: silica gel (80-100 mesh) chromatography. The extracts were sequentially eluted from the column with 50 ml of pentane (aliphatic fraction) and 200 of 1:1 pentane- dichloromethane (aromatic fraction) and concentrated for instrumental analysis.

Aliphatic hydrocarbons (n-[C.sub.13]-n-[C.sub.34]), pristane, and phytane were analyzed by gas chromatography (HP-5980) in the splitless mode with flame ionization detection (FID). A 30m x 0.32mm i.d. fused- silica column with DB-5 bonded phase (J&W Scientific, INC.) provided component separations. The FID was calibrated at five concentrations, and deuterated n-alkanes were used as surrogates and internal standards. Aromatic hydrocarbons were quantified by gas chromatography with mass spectrometric detection (HP-5890-GC and HP-5970-MSD). The samples were injected in the splitless mode onto a 30m x 0.25 mm (0.32um film thickness) DB-5 fused silica capillary column (J &W Scientific Inc.) at an initial temperature of 60[degrees]C and temperature programmed at 12[degrees]C/min to 300[degrees]C and held at the final temperature for 6 min. The mass spectral data were acquired, and the molecular ions for each of the PAH analyze were used for quantification. The GC/MS was calibrated by the injection of standards at five concentrations. Analyze identification were based on the retention time of the quantitation ion for each Analyze and a series of confirmation ion. Deurated aromatic compounds were used for surrogate and internal standards.

Results and Discussion

The results of the analysis (Table, 1) and (Figure, 2) represents average concentrations from at least three determinations. The concentration of petroleum hydrocarbons in coral reefs sediments ranged from 90 ng/g at Al-Mukha to 590 ng/g dry bulk sediment at Ras Isa. in July and from 230 ng/g at Al-Mukha to1100 ng/g dry weight bulk sediment at Ras Isa in December expressed as Kuwait crude oil equivalents.

The rather high concentrations observed in December sample in comparison to that of December due to the changing in wind direction and oil drifted on the surface that washed ashore on the Yemeni beaches in the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea coast of Yemen (Canadian Occidental Company , 1993).


From the result present here it is evident that the entire site are contaminated to extent with petroleum hydrocarbons.

The results of the present survey suggest that the sources of oil contaminated of national and international de-ballasting regulations, which result in the tankers discharging, the oily ballst water and the engine used oil in the sea area, effluent from the petroleum refineries located on the coastal areas; and loading facilities and transportation activities exacerbate the problem petroleum hydrocarbons concentrations found in sediments by other workers are compared to our data in ( Table,2). (Glodberg, 1975) has reported that the unpolluted open ocean sediments contain 400 [micro]g/g in coastal sediments and up to 12000 [micro]g/g in highly polluted areas.

The effects of oil on biological system arise from mechanical smothering and from the presence of toxic substance. The overall severity of the effects depends on the nature and quantity of oil spilled. In conjunction with factors such as wind, water movements, temperature and possibly salinity. Animals at particular risk include surface swimmers and feeders, such as waders and seabirds, marine reptiles and mammals.

Although there is controversy about the ecological effects of oil in the marine environment, many of the world's major oil spills have had long- term consequences. Reef corals and other marine ecosystems may be effected as much by chronic oiling as by infrequent, heavy spillage. There is little information about the effect of oil pollution on the fisheries of the Red Sea coast of Yemen. A much greater impact would be expected from oil spill if eggs and larvae stages were present than if adults dominated population. Ingestion of food which contains hydrocarbon compounds may lead to increased body burden and subsequent toxic effects or bio - accumulation of these compounds further up the food chain.

Tainting of the flesh of fish exposed to hydrocarbons may also occur which will decrease their market value or may even render them unfit for human consumption.

Conclusions and Recommendation

The mean conclusions of the present study are:

(1) Petroleum residues in various of the coral reefs sediment of Yemen are within the range of values reported for comparable region of the world.

(2) The Red Sea coast of Yemen possesses an unusual variety of habitats, flora and fauna. The impact of human activities on coastal environment is relatively low.

(3) This pollution is a consequence of oil operations and heavy ship traffic.

The study recommends that continues monitoring progamme for the coral reefs sediments of Red Sea of Yemen should be formulated and conducted to ensure that the concentrations of petroleum hydrocarbons are within the baseline levels established during the present survey.


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Nabil, A. Al-Shwafi (1), Mohammed Gazzaz (2) and Khaled. H. Al-Mughallas (3)

(1,2) Department of Marine Chemistry, University of Al - Hodiedah, Yemen

(3) Department of Zoology, University of Mysore, Manasagangotri, Mysore-570 006, Karnataka, India
Table 1: Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons (ng/g).

Location July 2008 December 2008

Al-Luhayyah 300 550
Ras Isa 590 1100
Al-Zubayr 450 900
Al-Hodiedah 400 750
Al-Khawkhah 240 370
Al-Mukha 90 230

Table 2: Comparison of Petroleum Hydrocarbon Content in Sediment
Collected from different region of the world.

Area Concentration Source

Narragansett Bay (USA) 50000- 120000 Farrington & Quinn
Scotia Shelf (Canada) 1000-94000 Keizer et al., (1978)
ST. Paul's Bay (Malta) 37800 Sammut & Nickless(1978)
Liverpool Bay (UK) 29000 Law (1981)
Coast of Oman 800-19000 Burns et al., (1982)
Arabian Gulf 400-44000 DouAbul et al., (1984)
Gulf of Aden/Arabian Sea 120-2100 EPC (1996)
Coast of Aden City-Yemen 9-45 Al-Shwafi (2008)
Coral reefs sediment Red Sea 90-1100 Present Study
 of Yemen
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Author:Nabil; Al-Shwafi, A.; Gazzaz, Mohammed; Al-Mughallas, Khaled. H.
Publication:International Journal of Applied Environmental Sciences
Geographic Code:7YEME
Date:Sep 1, 2010
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