The production process of a 1,3-position specific lipase from Rhizopus delemar was optimized by response surface methodology (RSM) and a Box-Behnken experimental design was used to study the interactive effects of fermentation medium components on lipase activity and microorganism growth. Preliminary batch tests were employed to obtain the favorable conditions for lipase activity analysis and found that sucrose, molasses, yeast extract, sunflower oil, tween-80 have significant influences on the lipase production and microorganism growth. The concentrations of five fermentation medium components were optimized. Among five variables, molasses sucrose and yeast extract were identified as less significant variables for lipase production. The optimum fermentation medium composition for lipase production by R. delemar was sucrose concentration 4.19 g/L, molasses sucrose 1.32 g/L, yeast extract 0.53 g/L, sunflower oil 1.11% (v/v), and tween-80 1.80% (v/v). In these conditions, the biomass concentration of 4.52 g/L with a lipolytic activity of 1585 mu mol/L min was reached. (C) 2009 The Institution of Chemical Engineers. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.