Technology for Production of Itaconic Acid from Molasses

Code No:TMS157 Vol IPrice:Rs350/-Category:Materials & Chemicals: Biochemicals

Summary  : Discusses demand assessment, technology status & gap for production of Itaconic Acid from molasses. The report focusses on quantifying the demand for these products in India & abroad sector wise, highlighting the status of the available technologies for the manufacture of these products in India and status of technologies abroad, identify the technological gap & suggest implementable plan with cost estimate and to identify the Institutes/Industries for developmental and implementation work. Estimated demand for Itaconic Acid (demand fully met by imports) is 210 tonnes in year 2015AD. Also, discusses market , global production, application, process technologies for Itaconic Acid. Recommends that indigenous process technology efforts for Itaconic Acid have been inadequate. Estimated raw material, installed capacity, utility requirement, manpower requirement and project cost have also been provided in the report.

Year of Publication : 2001

Table Of Contents : Cane Molasses, Product Characteristics and Specifications; Product Applications; Indian Manufacturers and New Projects; Import and Export Details Price Trends ; Status of Consuming Industries ; Assessment of Demand Supply Scenario; Broad Outline of Manufacturing Process and Raw Material Requirements; Technology Developments; Global Scenario; Swot Analysis; Factors Influencing The Position For A New Industry


  • Scope and Objective of the Study
  • Importance of the Topic
  • Methodology Adopted
  • Limitation of the Study
  • Major Observations /Findings and Analysis Thereof
  • General Technology Constraints
  • Likely Gap in Supply by 2015 AD in India
  • Status of Indian Technology
  • Observations on Indian R&D Efforts
  • Recommended Installed Capacity
  • Short Term and Long Term, Benefits of the Project
  • Emerging Technology Developments and Gap in Technology and Suggestion on Implementable Plans

Scope and Objective of the Study

The study relates to the demand supply scenario and status of the Indian Molasses based industry concerning the five products namely Lactic Acid, L-Lysine, Gluconic Acid, Glutamic Acid/Monosodium Glutamate and Itaconic Acid.

Importance of the Topic

India is a large sugar producer in the world and the present production level of sugar is around 160 million tonnes per annum. In the coming years, the production of sugar is likely to go up steadily in the country.

The important by-product of the Sugar Industry is the Cane Molasses, which is a strong building block for the chemical industries.

Inspite of producing Cane Molasses in large quantity in the country, several Molasses based products are being imported in substantial quantity.

It is necessary that India should set up facility for the production of the above Molasses based products for the following reasons:

  • To utilise the Molasses availability
  • To avoid the import of the Molasses based downstream products
  • To export the Molasses based downstream products in the global market
  • To achieve breakthrough in the fermentation technology for the Molasses based products


Methodology Followed

The Study have been made on the basis of extensive desk research and field survey.

  • Desk research
  • The desk research has been carried out on the basis of extensive study of the articles and reports in the Indian/International Journals on the subject, relevant Seminar Proceedings and details available in Chemical Abstracts/Patent Literature.
  • Field Survey
  • The countrywide field survey has been made when cross section of consumers, manufacturers, Research and Development bodies and technologists were contacted in person to assess the view points, with regard to the status of the Industry in the country.
  • The field survey was carried out with the objective of assessing the technology practices in the country, the actual work carried out by Research and Development Institutions, the plans for initiating optimisation measures, assess the demand/supply trends, import/export details, price variation, export possibilities and the factors influencing the position for a new industry.
  • Discussions were carried out at various levels by personal visits. The views of the persons on the above aspects of the study were specifically obtained with the objective of arriving at conclusions and recommendations.

Limitations of the Study\

The conclusions have been arrived at on the basis of desk research and field survey.

To the extent possible, discussions have been carried out in an informal manner for assessment of various aspects of the study.

Conclusions have been arrived at on the basis of the study of the published information, views expressed during the discussions and desk research.

The technology aspects have not been verified by any trials. However, it is certain that the opinions expressed are acceptable and based on facts. 


Major Observations /Findings and Analysis Thereof

Present Supply Level


Indigenous supply level in tonnes per annum

Possible reasons for non creation of adequate capacity

Lactic acid

200 Indian requirements are partly met by imports

There is only one significant producer of Lactic acid in the country at present namely Lactochem India Ltd.

It is reported that the financial performance of this unit is not satisfactory due to under-utilisation of capacity, consequent to process bottlenecks. However, the product quality of the unit is recognised as adequate, though still below the standards of the International organisations, who make variety of grades for various specific applications.

In view of the confidence gained by the indigenous production of Lactic acid, and due to the raising demand for the Lactic acid efforts are being made by several units to create new capacity for Lactic acid project.



Indian requirements are fully met by imports

There is no production of L-Lysine in the country at present.

The possible reason for absence of capacity is the non availability of commercially proven indigenous technology and the prohibitive cost of acquisition of technology from abroad for low capacity project.

Itaconic acid


Indian requirements are fully met by imports

There is no production of Itaconic acid in the country at present.

Possibly, no effort has been made to set up Itaconic acid project due to lack of indigenous and commercially proven technology and low level of demand for the product.

Gluconic acid


There is no production of Gluconic acid in the country at present.

Possibly, no effort has been made to set up Gluconic acid project since Gluconates are advantageously produced from Glucose by electrolytic process.

Adequate electrochemical process technology has been developed for the production of Gluconates from Glucose by Central Electrochemical Research Institute, Karaikudi.

Glutamic acid/MSG


Indian requirements are fully met by imports

There is no production of Glutamic acid/MSG in the country at present.

Efforts made in recent times to set up Glutamic acid /MSG project have failed to materialise, since the economic capacity of the project would be large and Indian demand level alone would not justify setting up large capacity project.


General technology constraints

The lack of capacity creation for Molasses based products can be partly attributed to the want of proven technology indigenously for several products.

Unlike the other petrochemical products where massive imports of technology have taken place in the past, such technology imports in the case of Molasses based products have not been possible.

Where fermentation process have been employed by the developed countries, Beet Molasses have been largely used instead of Cane Molasses.

The specifications of Molasses is very important and it differs from place to place. Transfer of technology from abroad for an Indian project has to be based on Indian specification of Molasses, which may require special trials and tests.


Likely Gap in Supply by 2015 AD in India (In tonnes)


Estimated demand

by 2015 AD

Likely supply in 2015 AD,assuming no additional capacity creation

Estimated gap in supply in 2015 AD assuming no additional capacity creations.

Additional capacity to be created at 80% capacity utilisation to meet the indigenous demand by 2015 AD

Lactic acid










Gluconic acid





Itaconic acid





Glutamic acid/MSG






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Status of Indian Technology


Status of Indian technology

Lactic acid

Significant breakthrough in technology for Lactic acid have been made in India by Malladi Group Companies based in Tamilnadu, leading to the setting up of Lactic acid project by Lactochem India Ltd.

Considering the quality of the output and the raw material consumption levels, the Indian Lactic acid project can be considered as competitive, though there could be scope for further optimisation of quality and cost standards.

The grades of the product produced by the Lactochem India Ltd., are not many and are not in tune with the trends of the major players in the world, since the capacity of the unit is not large.

Perhaps, some more R&D initiatives are required to produce products of various grades, catering to the requirment of specific user sector.


Indigenous process technology efforts for L-Lysine have been inadequate.

As of now, the country is dependent upon global source of technology for setting up L-Lysine project immediately.

Gluconic acid

The technology for Gluconic acid production by electrolysis process from Glucose is available in the country.

All the Gluconate producers presently produce Gluconates from Glucose by electrolysis process, where Gluconic acid is produced as intermediate product.

However, the process technology efforts for the production of Gluconic acid from Cane molasses by fermentation process in the country appears to be inadequate

As of now, the country is dependent upon external source of technology for setting up Gluconic acid project immediately by fermentation process from Cane Molasses.

Glutamic acid/MSG

Indigenous process technology efforts for Glutamic acid/MSG have been inadequate.

As of now, the country is dependent upon external source of technology for setting up Glutamic acid/MSG project immediately.

Itaconic acid

Indigenous process technology efforts for Itaconic acid have been inadequate.

As of now, the country is dependent upon global source of technology for setting up Itaconic acid project immediately.


Observations on Indian R&D Efforts

  • Lactic acid

R&D initiatives on Lactic acid particularly by Malladi Group is praise worthy.

  • L-Lysine, Gluconic acid, Glutamic acid/MSG and Itaconic acid

The Indian R & D efforts on the Molasses based projects under study namely L-Lysine, Itaconic acid, Gluconic acid and Glutamic acid/MSG have been inadequate so far.

  • The reasons for the inadquate R&D efforts:
  • Comparatively low demands for the products in the country
  • General reluctance on the part of industries to commit themselves to work on Molasses based projects, in view of the uncertain policies of the Government with regard to the allotment, movement and pricing of Molasses, that could seriously upset the availability and price of Molasses to the manufacturing units unexpectedly at any time.
  • Lack of Industry sponsorships due to the above reasons
  • Internationally, the historic leaders in products such as Lysine, Lactic acid and Glutamic acid/MSG are companies with long experience in operating fermentors.

An obvious example would be Japan’s Ajinimoto - a company traditionally very strong in fermentation to make Glutamic acid. Among other Asian names on the long list of industrial manufacturers of L-Lysine are Miwon and Samsung. The list also shows both Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) from North America and Degussa from Europe.

The technology apart, for success in fermentation technology is helped by a good raw material base. ADM went into Aminoacid fermentation and today, it occupies a strong position on Lysine. Also, Degussa entered Lysine production with an innovative process, which results in a product that has less Lysine but includes number of other aminoacids and nutrients of value.

None of the Indian organisations have acquired such strength in fermentation technology so far and therefore, there is a fear that the road leading to R&D success could be long and prolonged.

  • R&D Institutions do not appear to be enthusiastic to take up initiatives, as they are not sure of successfully marketing the technology, if and when developed.
  • The Development of technology for these products predominantly revolves around fermentation process, involving the use of culture. The culture technology in the country is still in the development stage, necessitating the import of strains.
  • The fermentation process conditions for various Molasses based products are stringent and requires maximum controls. The cross fermentation is a distinct possibility, even with minor variations in process conditions.
  • Molasses have been largely viewed only as a basic building block for the production of Ethyl Alcohol and other investment opportunities based on Molasses appear to have been largely ignored so far.


Recommended Installed Capacity

Number of working days per annum : 300

Number of working hours perday : 24


Annual Capacity in tonnes

Lactic acid




Gluconic acid


Glutamic acid/MSG


Itaconic acid


Short Term and Long Term, Benefits of the Project

The benefits derived by the implementation of the projects, can be broadly segmented as short term and long term.

  • Short term benefits
  • The profitable utilisation of Cane molasses
  • Avoidance of imports of the Molasses based products and saving in foreign exchange.
  • Exploitation of the export opportunities.
  • Industrial growth and consequent economic and social benefits.
  • Long term benefits
  • Growth of technology
  • The process for the Molasses based products are based on bio-technology, involving the developmernt of strains and fermentation for the production of the end product.
  • Scope exists for considerable initiation of bio-technology efforts, which can lead to significant improvement in the quality of the product and cost of operations. The initiation of technology improvement and optimisation measures would lead to considerable strengthening of the basic bio-technology, knowledge and expertise level in the country.
  • Exports
  • As Molasses is abundantly available at competitive price, the breakthrough in the technology and project efforts for Molasses based down stream products would enable India to emerge as a significant producer of the products in the world, taking the considerable export market share.
  • India has the opportunity to emerge as one of the leading producers of the products in the international market, by focusing on the products as thrust areas in India’s chemical technology, production and export efforts.

Emerging Technology Developments and Gap in Technology and Suggestion on Implementable Plans

  • Indian Technology levels
  • The essence of the technology for the production of fermentation products from cane molasses revolve around the development of appropriate culture for fermentation.
  • The work carried out in India so far with regard to the identifcation and development of strains for fermentation appears to be inadequate. Therefore, it looks that India has to depend on the import of specific strains for some time to come until the indigenous capability for production of strains would come up.
  • Indian R & D Efforts
  • Significant R&D efforts and breakthrough in process technology for Lactic Acid has been made on commercial scale in India. However, it has not been so in the case of Itaconic Acid, Lactic Acid, L-Lysine, Gluconic Acid and Glutamic Acid\Monosodium Glutamate on commercial scale plant.
  • Technology developments

Continous Fermentation Process

Fermentation technology can be practiced either based on batch process or continuous process. Most of the Indian expertise only relates to the fermentation technology based on batch process. In the case of continuous process, it can be said that the technology for the various fermentation process are still in the development stage.

The continuous fermentation process generally provides better yield, better consistency in product quality and lower investment and cost per unit product output.

Improvement of Process Yields

The improvement of process yields can be acheived by developing superior strains and optimising fermentation conditions.

The various improved practices to achieve better quality and yield adopted all over the world and the technology efforts have been described in Part II along with the patent details


Product specifications

International producers of products, have developed variety of grades for specific applications.

In future, the consumers are likely to demand product with tailor made specifications to meet their requirements in variety of applications.

  • Implementable Plans

General Details

Molasses based products namely Lactic acid, L-Lysine, Gluconic acid, Glutamic acid, Itaconic acid of high importance to India, in view of the following factors


Availability of large quantity of cane molasses in the country


The present outflow of foreign exchange


Loss of export opportunities due to inadequate or absence of production level in the country for various molasses based products.

The constraints in setting up the molasses based projects have been largely due to the inadequate technical know-how available in the country. Obviously, urgent steps have to be taken to acquire the technology from abroad or develop the technology in India itself.

Therefore, it is necessary to recognise the investment opportunity in the field and take urgent steps for implementing molasses based projects.

Obviously, the organisations who would be interested in investing in Molasses based projects and R&D institutions interested in developing commercially proven technology for the products have to be identified and provided necessary support and encouragement.


Identification of Investor

Inview of the high bio-technology inputs required, it is necessary that the investing organisation should have specific experience in production and R&D efforts relating to bio-technology and fermentation products, preferably based on Molasses.

Several of the global players like Ajinimoto have considerable strength in the fermentation technology. Since the project has to be globally competitive, the Indian players should have strength in the fermentation field to some extent.


Identification of R&D Organisations

The experience in fermentation technology and with facilities in the related field is a primary necessity for the R&D organisation. It would be preferable, if the organisation would already be involved in development of Molasses based projects.


Technology Plans

Generally, the development of specific strains is a time consuming excercise and may require as much as three to four years to acheive reasonable success.

Therefore, it would be appropriate to develop fermentation process based on imported strains to avoid loss of time . Meanwhile, the efforts to develop strains could be initiated and continued.


Financial aspects

The investment required for the development of technology would involve procurement of the necessary facilities and also the recruitment of required technical manpower.

A careful estimate of the costs involved have to be made.

Since, there could be an element of calculated risk in initiating such R&D efforts for the investing and R&D organisation and in view of the national benefits that could arise due to such efforts, Government of India can consider extending financial grants and other supports for the R&D efforts.