The production of pullulan from synthetic medium by Aureobasidium pullulans P56 in a stirred tank fermenter was investigated. The kinetics of polysaccharide, pullulan and biomass production was determined. Response surface methodology was used to investigate the effects of three factors (initial sugar concentration, aeration rate and agitation speed) on the concentration of pullulan in batch cultures of A pullulans. In the experiments, the range of values used for the three variables described were; 30-70 g dm(-3) initial sugar concentration, 200-600 rpm agitation speed and 1.0-3.0 vvm aeration rate. No previous work has used statistical analysis in determining the interactions among these variables in pullulan production. Results of the statistical analysis showed that the fit of the model was good in all cases. Aeration rate, agitation speed and sugar concentration had a strong linear effect on pullulan concentration. Moreover, pullulan concentration was significantly influenced by the negative quadratic effects of the given variables and by their positive or negative interactions with the exception that the interaction between agitation speed and aeration rate was insignificant (P > 0.05). Maximum pullulan concentration of 17.2 g dm(-3) was obtained at the optimum levels of process variables (initial sugar concentration 51.4 g dm(-3), aeration rate 2.36 vvm, agitation speed 345.3 rpm). These values were obtained by fitting of the experimental data to the model equation. Scanning electron microscope (SEM) photographs of polysaccharide particles containing different concentrations of pullulan were also taken to observe the morphological differences of the samples. (c) 2005 Society of Chemical Industry.