Praj opens R&D center in India

By Bryan Sims | June 17, 2008
As a leading process technology and engineering firm in the global ethanol and biodiesel markets, India-based Praj Industries Ltd. is expanding its research and development in order to advance next-generation biofuels.

In late April, Praj Industries opened a state-of-the-art integrated research and development center, Matrix-The Innovation Centre, near the company's headquarters in Pune, India.

It occupies five acres and includes 12 laboratories, seven clean-room facilities, a biodiesel plant and a cellulose-to-ethanol pilot plant. It also houses a brewery laboratory meeting European Brewing Convention standards.

The new facility was inaugurated by ICICI Bank Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer K.V. Kamath and Tata Motors Executive Director Prekash Telang in a formal ceremony. Praj Chairman Pramod Chaudhari spoke at the event.

"We believe that Matrix-The Innovation Centre is a unique biotech research and development [center], not only for biofuels, but also for an array of industrial biotech process studies," Chaudhari said. "It's the only one of its kind that has integrated facilities for industrial and agri-biotech. We will concentrate on 'last-mile' technologies for industrial biotech, which will create their own milestones."

Realizing the importance of implementing nonfood-based feedstocks to support demand for biofuels production, Praj undertook a three-pronged approach toward this end. First, it developed an innovative process technology for second-generation biofuels that uses a novel pretreatment process for agri-waste, followed by a specific microorganism for fermentation. A patent has been filed for this process. Second, it developed a production process for ethanol blends with a 25 percent to 35 percent higher energy content using a special microorganism that converts simple sugars. Third, the company integrated its knowledge of crop sciences with biofuels to promote sustainability. Praj created a separate division that deals with plant tissue culture, variety selection, farm yields and cultivation practices particularly for second-generation energy crops such as algae for biodiesel production. The division will also provide knowledge for new biodiesel feedstocks such as jatropha (wasteland cultivation), Pongamia and safflower.

Praj provides engineering design, equipment and project management for biodiesel and ethanol plants, and breweries, as well as related wastewater treatment facilities worldwide.
 
 
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