Unique sensors making shipping more eco-friendly


The technology company Tunable is hoping to cut sulphur emissions from ships. It has received considerable support from Innovation Norway, both funding and advice.

Ships that run on heavy oil emit a lot of sulphur, soot, and particles. This shipping pollution is an international problem that contributes to poor air quality worldwide.

Ships require good measuring equipment in order to reduce the sulphur content in exhaust gases. Ships have long used laboratory equipment that is poorly suited to ships, quickly breaks down, and is very expensive. The technology company Tunable has developed an analyser designed for ships that robustly and precisely measures whether the exhaust has been cleaned well enough.

“Measuring which, and how much, greenhouse gases ships emit has earlier been regarded as very difficult, however, we have developed a measuring instrument that easily solves the problem," says Kristian Hovet, CEO of the technology company Tunable.

A mark of quality

Tunable’s solution is maintenance free and has been proven capable of withstanding the environmental impacts at sea.

In 2019, Tunable received a NOK 3.9 million environmental technology grant from Innovation Norway.

“Saying that Innovation Norway supports the project gives the project a mark of quality. Our partners have heard about Innovation Norway and know that it does not spend money on projects it does not believe in,” says Hovet.

The support has been spent on developing and testing the analyser in use on various ships around the world, and a partner, Norsk Analyse, has also installed the analyser on a cruise ship and on a cargo ship.

Companies with base technology

Tunable has also received support from the Research Council of Norway, as well as a loan from Innovation Norway.

“The collaboration has been excellent. Professionally it is highly competent, at the same time as it has a good understanding of business development,” says Håkon Nyhus, senior ICT adviser at Innovation Norway Oslo Viken.

The entrepreneurs come from an environment at SINTEF.

“Tunable comes from a serious professional environment within gas sensor technology and the base technology has many potential applications. Analysing exhaust gases on ships is a promising example that addresses an important environmental challenge, at the same time as the potential in the company and the technology extends well beyond this area,” points out Nyhus.

Cleaning fuel

Most ships still run on heavy fuel oil because low sulphur content fuel is expensive. In order to reduce sulphur emissions from heavy fuel oil, the exhaust must pass through a so-called scrubber; an exhaust gas cleaning system installed on the ship. The analyser developed by Tunable measures gases emitted from the scrubber.

“The analyser includes a microchip with a controllable optical filter, which allows us to shine a beam through the gas and pick out gases from complex mixtures. It can’t be fooled by the presence of other gases,” says Hovet.

Contract for 500 ships

According to Hovet and Tunable, more energy efficiency requirements will be issued in the future.

“The truth is that there are now larger areas of ocean around the world where ships can do what they want. When you look at what is actually happening, it makes you angry. This is a problem to which we can contribute our solution,” he says.

So far, Tunable has delivered 70 systems for various ships. It has a contract for 500 analysers that it will deliver to ships around the world.

“What is the next step?”

“We are now developing the analyser further such that it measures all important greenhouse gases, not just sulphur dioxide and carbon dioxide. Our main goal is to ensure that the analyser can be fitted on all 90,000 ships around the world and ensure that there is as little pollution as possible in the world’s oceans,” responds Hovet.

DFDS The Crown is currently testing a version of Tunable’s analyser that measures all exhaust gases in a system from its partner Norsk Analyse.

The analyser is also being developed so it can be used onshore in many important industries. In this way, Tunable will also contribute to controlling and reducing emissions onshore.

  • Grants for environmental technology
  • Grants for innovation contracts
  • Innovation loans
  • Export technical advisory
  • EU advisory
  • Advisory in international markets