About - Environmental and Industrial Biotechnology

To achieve the goal of sustainability while dealing with environmental pollution and energy security issues, the Division explores diverse microbial and plant resources to protect the environment, enhance oil recovery from stripped oil wells, and protect agricultural crops from pests. It developed and commercialized the novel 'Oilzapper', and Microbially Enhanced Oil Recovery (MEOR) technologies at its state-of-the-art pilot scale fermentation facility. These provide a cost-effective, sustainable solution for clean-up of oil spills and treatment of contaminated soil/sludge, and for enhanced oil recovery from ageing oil wells, respectively. Oilzapper enabled TERI to venture into collaboration with Kuwait Oil Company (KOC) through a global competitive bid for bioremediation of 400,000 tonnes of oil-contaminated soil. This was the fi rst such large-scale bioremediation project implemented by the Indian biotechnology sector. MEOR and PDB (Paraffi n Degrading Bacteria) were developed with the aid of IRS, ONGC.

The Division is also exploring microbes for cleaner energy forms. In partnership with Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL), it has successfully developed batch dark fermentative biohydrogen production in 1,000 litre pilot scale and is engaged with scale up of 2-3 butanediol in pilot scale.

Keeping in view the ill-effects of chemical pesticides, Government of India has adopted Integrated Pest Management (IPM) as the cardinal principle of its plant protection strategy in which biopesticides can play a central role. Contributing to this, the Division, in a breakthrough project, has developed an eco-friendly eucalyptus extract-based biopesticide effective on various pest complexes, especially Helicoverpa armigera which is detrimental to more than 181 plant species.

The Division is also involved in the promotion of the IPM module across various states through a combination of need-based application of synthetic pesticides and TERI's 'Bollcure' to combat the ecological and health-related problems arising due to the injudicious usage of synthetic pesticides. The IPM modules designed and developed by TERI offer a promising solution to the multiple problems arising due to intensive agriculture. This also offers advantages to farmers, such as increased marketable surplus and better quality of produce, thus offering higher value realization with enhanced bargaining power, reduction in usage of chemical pesticides by around 50-60 per cent, ecosystem approach, and better management/utilization of available resources, etc.

Bio-prospecting of endophytic microorganisms isolated from different microhabitats in search of novel molecules of biological importance is another important area of research. More than 1,500 endophytes have been isolated from different medicinal plants growing in North-Eastern India and screened against a plethora of plant pathogenic fungi for antagonistic activity, phytotoxicity studies, and antifeedancy activity against pests of economically important crops. A signifi cant number of endophytes have shown promising results and bioactive metabolites produced by these endophytes have been characterized. These endophytes are currently under various stages of evaluation and subsequent development, and in the near future, may become a part of the IPM programme.