Subject Matter Experts: C.I.Agent® Hydrocarbon Detection Strips; Hydrocarbon Test Strips that are an Easy and Adaptable Oil Screening Method


As leaders in the secondary containment industry, we are constantly being asked questions regarding our innovative approaches to oil management. Our Subject Matter Expert blog post series was created to directly address some of these questions from current and potential customers.


“I’m interested in finding out more about your Hydrocarbon Detection Strips and potential applications. Are they a good screening method to detect the presence of hydrocarbons in groundwater? What about in soil?”


hydrocarbon test strips for easy hydrocarbon detection
Hydrocarbon test strips for easy hydrocarbon detection

Our C.I.Agent® Hydrocarbon Detection Strips can be used in a number of applications and are an ideal screening method to detect hydrocarbon contamination in groundwater as well as soil. Testing is simple to perform and provides immediate results. The light blue strips will turn a darker blue if introduced to oil. If no hydrocarbons are present, the test strip will not wet or change color.

C.I.Agent® Hydrocarbon Detection Strips provide quick, qualitative detection of Petroleum (B.P. 40-80 °C), Gasoline (high octane) Heating oil and lubricating oil, among others.

The test strip’s sensitivity depends upon the solubility of the hydrocarbons. However, it’s important to note that because it can’t differentiate between different types of hydrocarbons, the C.I.Agent® Hydrocarbon Detection Strips will determine any oil present as long as the tested substance normally wouldn’t contain oil.

oils detected by hydrocarbon test strips



Hydrocarbon test strips are an easy-to-use screening method:

Hydrocarbon test strips for easy testing in water

Testing groundwater or soil with hydrocarbon test strips is an easy process. If the water is flowing, simply hold the test strip briefly within the flow. However, if groundwater does not flow, dip the strip into the stagnate water in question and move it back and forth. If the hydrocarbon detection strip does not change color, then there are no detections of hydrocarbons and the strip will remain dry. If hydrocarbons are present, the strip goes through a process known as wetting, in which it turns a darker blue color. The stronger the presence of oil, the deeper blue the strip becomes.

For testing of hydrocarbons in soil, press the strip into soil then rinse clean with clear water. Again, if the hydrocarbon detection strip does not change color and wet, there is no detection of hydrocarbons. If the strip becomes a darker shade of blue, then hydrocarbons are present.



C.I.Agent® Hydrocarbon Detection Strips play a role in multiple applications

Hydrocarbon test strips being used in C.I.Agent EVAC Filtration System
Hydrocarbon detection strips being used in C.I.Agent® EVAC Filtration System

Not only do we use hydrocarbon test strips to indicate the presence of oil in our polymer demonstration for secondary containment, we also use it in some of our product solutions, like the C.I.Agent® EVAC Filtration System and the Hydro Sheen Filter.

The EVAC uses state-of-the-art filtration technology to encapsulate hydrocarbons, remove large and fine sediment, and polish sheen. With flow rates of up to 6,000 gallons per hour, it’s crucial to know when the filter is spent so it can be changed. The EVAC, which can safely contain more than two quarts of oil, utilizing hydrocarbon test strips to indicate when it has reached its maximum hydrocarbon capacity. Additionally, the hydrocarbon test strips serve as a monitoring tool during the dewatering process to ensure the water being pumped out of the vault and discharged into the storm drain isn’t contaminated, which helps eliminate potential fines.

C.I.Agent Hydrocarbon detection strips are also used in the C.I.Agent® Hydro Sheen Filter
C.I.Agent Hydrocarbon detection strips are also used in the C.I.Agent® Hydro Sheen Filter

Hydrocarbon test strips are also an important component of the C.I.Agent® Hydro Sheen Filter. The Hydro Sheen Filter safely allows water to be processed and released from portable containment systems and spill berms, while preventing the flow of slight to heavy sheen. The hydrocarbon detection strip indicates to users when the filter needs to be changed to continue to provide maximum protection.

Hydrocarbon test strips can also be used to detect if water is contaminated by hydrocarbons in elevator shafts, underground utility vaults and manholes, retention and secondary containment vessels, and out-fall on oil-water separators prior to pumping out the water. The strips measure 2.75 inches x .75 inches and are sold in packs of 100 strips.


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