GRACE – Integrated oil spill response actions and environmental effects

Project duration: 2016-2019

Financier: EU H2020 grant No 679266

Coordinator: Kirsten Jørgensen, Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE)

Coordinator at Institute for Environmental Research RWTH Aachen: Dr. Thomas-Benjamin Seiler (WP3 lead), Prof. Dr. Henner Hollert

Phd candidates: Sarah Johann, Leonie Nüßer

Project webpage:

The H2020-funded project GRACE addressed oil spills in cold climate and ice-infested areas of the Baltic Sea and the northern Atlantic Ocean. Within a consortium of comprehensive expertise, the overall objectives were the improvement of marine oil spill detection and monitoring, oil spill response technologies, and understanding hazardous the environmental impacts of oil spills. Response measures included mechanical recovery in water and below ice, in situ burning as well as chemical dispersion and natural biodegradation.

The Institute for Environmental Research at RWTH Aachen was mainly involved in 3 out of 5 research work packages. Within work package 1 a novel biosensor for oil spill detection that is based on the behavioral response of zebrafish larvae was developed. Within this work package pilot studies with novel sensor systems and platforms were undertaken with the most appropriate strategy to enable comparisons to old practices in terms of sensitivity indices and assessments. Accurate and effective techniques for rapid detection of oil in ice are vital in order to be able to control and mitigate the consequences of potential spills in remote Arctic and other ice infested sea areas.

Work package 3 focused on the particular environmental impacts of oil spills on biota. Field and laboratory studies investigated ecologically relevant target species at a regional scale (bivalves, crustacean) as well as laboratory model species (e.g. fish). Regional species were sampled seasonally from representative locations in the Baltic Sea and northern Atlantic. Selected model oil types as representatives for the study region were investigated using bioassay batteries with sensitive biomarker endpoints. Based on the toxicity data species-specific direct links between molecular events and effects on organisms (adverse outcome links (AOL)) for selected test organisms were established. This approach is a useful tool to develop risk assessment strategies covering future concepts for oil spill response.

Within work package 4, a large scale field in situ burning experiment with a heavy fuel oil was performed in a bay of the Greenland coast. Leaded by project partners from the Aarhus University (Denmark), several biological endpoints such as the tidal community recovery and chemical endpoints were monitored. The Institute for Environmental research was involved in the ecotoxicological characterization of collected burn residues.

All deliverables of the GRACE project are public available for free download on the GRACE webpage.

Recent project publications with the Institute for Environmental Research:
Jørgensen, K.S., Kreutzer, A., Lehtonen, K.K., Kankaanpää, H., Rytkönen, J., Wegeberg, S., Gustavson, K., Fritt-Rasmussen, J., Truu, J. and Kõuts, T. (2019) The EU Horizon 2020 project GRACE: integrated oil spill response actions and environmental effects. Environmental Sciences Europe 31(1), 44
Johann, S., Nüßer, L., Goßen, M., Hollert, H. and Seiler, T.B. (2019) Differences in biomarker and behavioral responses to native and chemically dispersed crude and refined fossil oils in zebrafish early life stages. Science of the Total Environment, 136174.
Johann, S., Esser, M., Nüßer, L., Altin, D., Hollert, H. and Seiler, T.-B. (2020) Receptor-mediated estrogenicity of native and chemically dispersed crude oil determined using adapted microscale reporter gene assays. Environment international 134, 105320.


Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Henner Hollert

Goethe University Frankfurt
Biologicum, Campus Riedberg
Max-von-Laue-Str. 13
60438 Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Room: 3.319
Phone: +49 (0)69 798 42171
Fax: +49 (0)69 798 42161
Email: hollert(at)bio(dot)uni-frankfurt(dot)de

Former Affiliation: