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Mass Cultivation of Microalgae for the Production of High Value Bio-Fuel Fractions through Hydro-Thermal Liquefaction (HTL)

Primary Information



Project No.


Sanction and Project Initiation

Sanction No: 7698

Sanction Date: 08/02/2017

Project Initiation date: 23/03/2017

Project Duration: 36

Partner Ministry/Agency/Industry

Ministry of New and Renewable Energy


Role of partner:To fund 50% of the total amount sanctioned (Rs. 118.5 Lakhs) and supervise progress from time to time


Support from partner:MNRE though committed has not yet sanctioned a single rupee for this project, due to which it is extremely difficult to manage the project.

Principal Investigator

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Prof. Kaustubha Mohanty
Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati

Host Institute


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Prof. Debabrata Das
Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur

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Prof. B. C. Meikap
Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur


Scope and Objectives

1. Production of high oil yielding indigenous microalgae in large scale indoor photobioreactor and open raceway pond for algal biomass production.
2. Process optimization for recycling and reuse of harvest water for high value biomass production.
3. Hydrocracking of the algal biomass and optimization of the process parameters.
4. Fuel property study of the distilled product obtained through true boiling point (TBP) distillation and composition analysis using GC and other analytical instruments.
5. Feasibility study of residual biomass cake/crude glycerol towards value added products.


1. Scale-up technology of microalgae biomass feedstock production using 200 L indoor photobioreactor and 2000 L raceway pond.
2. Design and development of sustainable 2000 L raceway pond for scale-up study.
3. Process optimization towards recycle of used media and developed harvest technology.
4. Advanced biorefinery approach will help in production of fractional biofuels with properties similar to petroleum fractions such as Green gasoline, Green ATF and Green diesel as the end product and will provide value-added co-products.
5. Minimum two doctoral students will pursue their doctoral research through this project.
6. 2 PhD / 2 M.Tech., 5-6 journal publications
7. Deliverable product/ process/ patent will be transferred to any biofuel producing industry/ chemical industry / petro chemical industry for commercial production/ application.


Scientific Output

1. Native microalgae isolation and optimization of growth medium using model strain. Nine native microalga strains were isolated and genomic identification was performed towards pilot-scale microalga biofuel production. Initial characterizations of all strains were performed and found ENCMA1 strain Chlorella thermophila has shown significant biomass yield of 1.62 g/L and lipid productivity of 46.67 mg/Ld. To make the process economically sustainable, low-cost fertilizer based microalga growth media was optimized using response surface methodology. It was found that NPK 1.4 g/L, SSP 9.6 mg/L and Mg 100 mg/L was optimum to achieve maximum biomass yield of 1.55 g/L dry cell weight (DCW), which was close to the DCW achieved from control BG-11 medium. However, the optimization process is under progress to further enhance maximum biomass yield.
2. Scale up study in PBR To perform scale up study, 20 L indoor flat panel PBR was designed and installed). Model microalgae strain C. thermophila was cultured in the PBR with optimized low cost media. Maximum biomass yield of 1.03 g/L was obtained from low cost media (LCM), whereas control BG-11 resulted in 1.74 g/L biomass yield. However, process optimization study is under progress to enhance biomass yield.
3. Harvest culture media recycle Beside media optimization, recycle of harvest media, the 2nd objective is simultaneously under progress. Experiments were conducted on four different harvesting methods such as auto-sedimentation, filtration, centrifugation, and flocculation, and it was found that harvested media obtained after centrifugation was promising towards reusability study. A maximum biomass yield 1.77 g/L was achieved after three batches of re-usability study with 50% addition of fresh media. Further optimization of the process is in progress to enhance biomass yield with addition of minimum quantity of fresh media.


Results and outcome till date

1. A total nine native microalga strains were isolated, identified, and gene sequences were submitted at NCBI (by IITG).
2. In addition, five potential microalga strains were procured from various algal repositories towards biofuel study (by IITKGP).
3. All 14 strains were successfully screened from which Chlorella thermophila (IITG) and Neochloris oleoabundans (UTEX 1185) (IITKGP) was selected towards pilot-scale microalga biofuel production.
4. Microalgae was cultivated in five different media and it was found that modified Bold 3N media was suitable for the algal growth (IITKGP).
5. Commercial grade fertilizer (NPK) was optimized for microalga biomass production (IITG).
6. Lab-scale study on recycle of harvested culture medium was successfully done, however, process will be validated after study in PBR (IITG).
7. 20 L and 100 L PBR was indigenously designed and installed for large-scale biomass production (IITG).


Societal benefit and impact anticipated

will be updated later

Next steps

1. Process development of optimized low-cost media will be studied in 20 L and 100 L indoor Photobioreactor and harvested biomass will be studied towards biofuel production. 2. Pilot-plant microalga biomass production will be conducted in 2000 L open raceway pond and physicochemical characterization of harvested biomass as biofuel feedstock will performed.
3. Hydrothermal liquefaction of harvested biomass to achieve fractional biofuel will be studied in a high temperature high pressure (HTHP) autoclave reactor and fractional distillation will be done through SimDis GC and/True Boiling Point (TBP) distillation unit.
4. Physicochemical characterization of fractional biofuels will be done as per ASTM and BIS standards.

Publications and reports

S. Mishra, K. Mohanty, Comprehensive characterization of microalgal isolates and lipid-extracted biomass as zero-waste bioenergy feedstock: An integrated bioremediation and biorefinery approach, Bioresource Technology, 273, 2019, 177-184.



Scholars and Project Staff

2 PhD students joined

Challenges faced

Due to non-availability of funds from MNRE (Rs.118.5 Lakhs), we are not able to procure equipments. I have written to the National Coordinator to allow me to appropriate the funds whatever sanctioned so that we can procure equipments, however discouraged to do so. If we do not receive MNRE funds within the next 2 months, then we shall be forced to modify the project OBJECTIVES.

Financial Information

  • Total sanction: Rs. 237 lakhs

  • Amount received: Rs. 93 lakhs

  • Amount utilised for Equipment: Rs. 15 lakhs

  • Amount utilised for Manpower: Rs. 6.26 lakhs

  • Amount utilised for Consumables: Rs. 3.31 lakhs

  • Amount utilised for Contingency: Rs. 2.66 lakhs

  • Amount utilised for Travel: Rs. 1.27 lakhs

  • Amount utilised for Other Expenses: 10.22 lakhs

  • Amount utilised for Overheads: Rs. 10.5 lakhs

Equipment and facilities


Only GC was procured, the other instruments we are unable to procure due to non-availability of the MNRE fund.