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Energy Biosciences-Biofuels :: Home
Energy Biosciences-Biofuels
  • DBT-BBSRC joint bilateral call for proposals  
  • *DBT-Budget Performa 

    *Case for Support 2012 


    Energy Biosciences-Biofuels


    Energy Bioscience Programme of DBT

    A.      Overview of Energy Bioscience Program

     1)    Feedstock development

    Jatropha -Micromission, Multilocation Trial, Conservation of germplasm

    Macro and Microalgae –Collection ,screening and Improvement


    2)    Technology Development

    Biodiesel, Bioethanol, Biobutanol, Biohydrogen


    3)    Bioenergy Centres-

    DBT-ICT Centre for Energy Biosciences, Mumbai

    DBT-IOC Centre for Advance Bioenergy Research, Faridabad

    DBT-ICGEB Centre for Advance Bioenergy Research, New Delhi


    4)    Capacity Building: Fellowships

    Energy Bioscience Chair-for  Senior Scientists

    Energy Biosciences Overseas Fellowship for Post Docs working Overseas


    5)    International Cooperation-Indo-US Joint Clean Energy Research and Development Centre

    DBT India-BBSRC UK  Pre-announcement of joint bilateral call for proposals in bioenergy research with last date July 2012 ; for details visit website of DBT

    Major New Initiatives to be undertaken in Bioenergy sector

                                   i.      Enzyme and protein engineering


                                  ii.      Synthetic Biology & Metabolic Engineering


                                 iii.      Biorefinery Approach to Biochemicals


                                iv.      Life Cycle Assessment Study (LCA)

                                 v.      Biomass Energy plus Fuel Cells Shortcomings:


    B.        Achievements so far


    I Energy Bioscience Centres


    A.   DBT-ICT Centre for Energy Biosciences (


                 The DBT–ICT (Institute of Chemical Technology) Centre for Energy Biosciences (CEB) has been established at Mumbai with the primary focus on developing biotechnologies for deriving energy from renewable resources.  Its overall objectives are improved bio-ethanol production from any given biomass, developing a bio-refinery approach for selected biomass and other biofuel technologies such as bio-diesel, bio-hydrogen and bio-methane.  Highlights of its achievements are:

    (i)    A completely indigenous technology for lingo-cellulosic ethanol has been developed with low capital cost, suitable to all kind of biomass, more than 90% ethanol yields.

    (ii)   The technology developed at the Centre has been validated at kilogram level and is being demonstrated by India Glycols Ltd at Kashipur (Uttrakhand), India site with capacity to process 10 tons biomass/day.


    (iii)  Novel cellulolytic enzyme systems have been developed in collaboration with ICGEB, New Delhi and are being implemented for cellulose and hemicellulose hydrolysis for different end products.


    (iv)  The technology for production of butanol from biomass derived sugars has been developed and involves a mutated Clostridium strain that produces only butanol and acetone.


    (v)   Metabolic flux analysis and modelling is underway for different microbial systems such as C5 fermentation to ethanol, and C6 and C5 fermentation to butanol. This work is in collaboration with School of Chemical Engineering, Purdue University, USA.


    B.   Setting up of DBT-IOC Centre for Advanced Bio-energy Research

    The specific mission of this centre shall be Research, Development and Deployment of the technologies. This centre will work in collaboration with existing centers of excellence for this pursuit. This centre would generate an understanding of biological processes to achieve environmentally responsible production and conversion of renewable resources for fuels, chemicals, and other energy-enriched products. The Cntre has following major objectives:

    (i)            To conduct a multi-disciplinary bioenergy research involving biology, chemical and material sciences etc.

    (ii)           To provide a platform for integrating dis-jointed research activities pursued in several areas related to biofuels by various institutes.

    (iii)          Development of “institutional capability” to address the bioenergy need of nation based on “science -enterprise model”.

    (iv)         Provide National capability of pilot level scale-up of developed technologies

    C.   DBT-ICGEB Centre for Advanced Bioenergy Research (In progress)

    II Biodiesel

    (i)            Jatropha Micro mission

    Objective of the DBT Jatropha Micro mission was to develop elite and improved material of Jatropha curcas for large scale plantation in the country. It also undertook to collect, select, screen, evaluate, characterise and improve the genetic material available in the country; and develop practices for its cultivation as energy crop in line with the proposed biofuel policy.

    More than 1200 collections have been made from throughout the country by DBT Network participating institutes. Out of these 890 collections were accessioned in the National Register; these accessions have also been cryo-preserved in the gene bank at NBPGR, New Delhi. Selections were made from the collections primarily based on high seed yields and high oil content (more than 30%). More than 35 accessions have been identified with more than 40% oil. The selected accessions have been evaluated in the field trials at nearly 150 sites located at different agro climatic regions of the country. Promising individuals and provenances were selected based on these extensive trials. The trial also yielded useful information with respect to response of plants to specific environmental stress, agricultural and siliviculture practices.

    The selected material was bulked up to raise nearly 17 lakh plants by clonal propagation. These elite clonal plants were shared with various beneficiaries of the MNRE, State governments, forest departments, Military establishments, DRDO, NGOs and Corporations working under PPP mode.

    Multi-location trials of selected accessions have been initiated to select site specific individuals and provenances and to assess response of various selected elite accessions to the environmental conditions in different parts of the country. The study so far has helped to find one accession that has been found outstanding at several sites in the country and others that are site specific. The trial has been further extended with 100 elite accessions. The study to be completed by 2013-14 will yield site specific elites (individuals and provenances) for plantation in respective conditions.

    DBT had prepared operational guidelines for cultivation of Jatropha; however different agro climatic conditions required specific interventions. Cultivation practices for  sites with different stress factors like aridity, salinity, alkalinity, poor soil nutrients etc. are being developed by planned experiments at different sites in the country though Network trials of DBT, NOVPOD Board and ICAR networks.

    (ii)           Conservation of elite material

    DBT Network has nearly 500 selected accessions that is a resource for future bulking and improvement. This resource base is being conserved at five centres in the country and will be available for bulking.

    (iii)          Jatropha R&D- Genetic improvement of Feedstock

    A program was initiated under the DBT Network on improvement of Jatropha by screening, breeding and through marker assisted selection and metabolic pathway engineering. In order to understand molecular biology of fatty acids biosynthesis and oil content in Jatropha seeds through generation of ESTs, full length cloning of fatty acid biosynthesis genes and development of molecular markers (SSRs/SNPs) either through ESTs or comparative genomics with caster bean, a total of 16,000 ESTS and 70,000 short transcripts have been generated from different developmental stages of Jatropha seeds.

    III.   Bioethanol

     Department is supporting a number of research projects for bioethanol production like development of delignification and pretreatment processes from lignocellulosic biomass, engineering of bacterial for production of robust enzymes for microbial conversion of cellulose, and scale up studies at various institutes across India. Highlights of their achievements are :

    Cloning and expression of cellusases genes (for endo-glucanases, exoglucanases and beta glucosidase) in E. coli have been completed and the recombinant strain has been suitably engineered to produce ethanol as the major product.


    IV. Bio-butanol

    The interest in microbial production of butanol is based on the awareness that bio-butanol could be one of the most promising biofuels, with the potential to meet the needs of sustainable and green energy systems. Efforts are being made for production, process optimization, purification, scale up for butanol as a sustainable alternative fuel.


    Selection of most potent butanol producing microbes and   process optimization for maximum butanol production has been completed using substrates such as glycerol and corn cob. Scale up studies with 30 L fermenter has been performed and fed batch studies also been carried out.  Extraction and purification studies as well as strain improvement by mutagenic approach are under progress.


    V. Biohydrogen


    Initiatives already taken to support R&D in Biohydrogen production from renewable sources. A fermentative strain designated as Clostridium butyricum TM-9A have been isolated from soil samples from Southern India and have been optimized for pilot scale hydrogen production from cost effective substrates. Optimization of parameters has are under progress. Co-products such as acetate, butyrate  have been found during the optimization process.



    VI. Algal Biofuel

    Algae, as a research material for biodiesel has been identified as a priority area of research. Studies have been initiated to collect, identify and characterize algal strains which will have more oil/lipid content. To have large amount of biomass, mass cultivation has been started using open pond system, Raceway ponds, photo-bioreactor etc. Besides, growth conditions of selected species are being optimised for high oil yield. Under this algal network programme 12 national laboratories/institutions/universities are involved from across the country for collection of algal strains, identification and characterization.


    Collection of algal strains

    Out of collected 120 freshwater strains, 41 had been raised as monoculture and further efforts are in progress to isolate more strains form varied climatic zones. The target of isolating minimum 200 species of algae from Western Maharashtra has been reached at Pune University, Pune. A  total 923 cyanobacteria micro green algae have been isolated from different ecological habitats and location of NE region of India and These have been characterized taxonomically, and screened based on lipid content.  Lipid profiling and characterization by RAPD is under progress


    The most promising strains are being taken up further for improvement to produce biodiesel from algae. Methods are being optimised to develop oil extraction process from algal oil at pilot scale.     


    Algal Repository

    DBT has established three different national repository facilities for microalgae from marine water, fresh water and brackish water. National Facility for Marine Cyanobacterial repository  for  biodiesel feed stock has been upgraded to 430 marine cyanobacterial strains from the coastal areas of Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Gujarat and Andaman island.  More than 1200 purified, taxonomically characterized microgreen algae  & cyanobacterial from North East region have deposited to the Fresh Water Cyanobacterial Repository at IBSD, Imphal, along with accession numbers.


    VII.       Capacity Building


    The Department has initiated a scheme -National Energy Bioscience Chair” to have excellent team leaders in the Bioenergy area who can help in building innovative teams to address the major challenges in this sector.  It is expected to have at least 5 chairs at any one given time, each for a period of five years.      

    The Department has also instituted-Energy Bioscience Overseas Fellowships for scientists of Indian origin who are working outside the country in the field of Energy Biosciences (including Biofuels, Bioenergy etc.). The main objective of the scheme is to support scientists of Indian origin who wish to return to the home country and pursue research of high calibre in the area of Energy Biosciences. The duration of the Fellowship is for 5 years, which in exceptional cases, may be extended by another 5 years. Energy Bioscience overseas fellowship has been awarded to three candidates for 5 years in 2011-12 to work in different host institutes in India.


    C.        Major New Initiatives to be undertaken in 12th Plan


    1.  Enzyme and protein engineering for use in Bioenergy sector

    The major bottleneck in the conversion of lignocellulosic biomass into ethanol is the high cost associated with the hydrolytic enzymes. Therefore, focus of the research should be to find cheaper ways of producing the enzymes and to find more active enzymes with high thermal tolerance.

    2.    Synthetic Biology & Metabolic Engineering


    It is increasingly realized that modern biology can be put to novel applications to manufacture ‘unnatural’ molecules through microbial or enzymatic transformations. Engineering of microorganisms genetically recombined to produce ‘unnatural’ molecules through engineered pathways requires close interplay of biological and engineering principles. Synthetic biology thus in many ways can be said to be the science of the future of energy and material industry, besides making important contributions in healthcare. Most chemicals and fuels in not very distant future will be result of advances in synthetic biology.



    3.    Biorefinery Approach to Biochemicals (To replace from concept note)


    ·   Study synthetic and Metabolic pathways to produce the target biochemicals. Genes encoding on specific enzymes required in the pathways must be understood and candidate strains possessing such genes must be identified.  Host organisms suitable for the production of biochemicals must be identified.  The tools and techniques for inserting such genes and pathways into host organisms must be developed.

    ·   Identification and development of downstream processing technologies for the recovery and purification of target biochemicals.

    ·   Development of technologies for the conversion of the target biochemicals into the final biochemicals

    ·   Lifecycle analysis on the technologies for the production of target biochemicals


    4.   Life Cycle Assessment Study (LCA)

    LCA methodology can be applied to the renewable energy products and process for assessment of environmental impact of the developmental projects. LCA study can provide more reliable and comprehensive information in selecting sustainable products and processes. Net energy gain (NEG) the difference between total energy output and total energy input is one of the accepted indices for analyzing energy efficiency,similarly ratio of total energy output to total energy input (NER) reflects the energy efficiency of the process.


    5.     Biomass Energy plus Fuel Cells

    Developments are required to see regular commercially viable application of FC systems with respect to the techno-economic issues in fuel pre-treatment and FC integration, improve efficiencies with greater flexibility ,clean up systems.  Fuel processing systems will be further developed to increase efficiencies. Reforming technologies have largely been proven from a technical standpoint, but are not yet economical.


    6. Training and Capacity Building

    Department has proposed to create institutional mechanism for medium to long term training and capacity building in the areas as mentioned above.

    7. International Cooperation

    There is a need to enhance our own capacity to comply with our commitments and to enable our flow of resources. Hence, Department will organize or participate international events to develop network and enhance Bioenergy cooperation , biolateral programs and will seek international cooperation  from key regulatory authorities if required.

    Department will also initiate program for exchange of scientific professionals having expertise in the relevant area


    8. Regulation Compliance


    Department  considers the biofuel blending and regulation with greater importance and it is felt that there is a strong need to implement proper biofuel pricing policy 





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