Saturated hydrocarbons can be photodegraded in the presence of sensitizers of hydrogen abstraction (anthraquinone, 1-naphtol, 9-fluorenone, xanthone). These type I photoprocesses act efficiently on linear, branched and cyclic hydrocarbons leading to the production of several photoproducts (alcohols, ketones, aldehydes, alkanes, alkenes, carboxylic acids, diketones, lactones, oxiranes, cyclobutanols, etc.). In this paper, the photooxidation of these hydrocarbons is reviewed and the formation mechanisms of their main photoproducts are described. The significance of these processes during the photochemical degradation of petroleum hydrocarbon fractions in seawater is also discussed.
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