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UKNEST Warship Net Zero Conference 2022

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The Royal Navy ‘must lead the way’ in the push for Net Zero, warned Admiral Paul Beattie, Director Naval Staff, speaking at the UKNEST Warship Net Zero Conference 2022.

Frazer-Nash's Howard Lungley recently presented at the Warship Net Zero Conference 2022, hosted by UK Naval Engineering Science & Technology (UKNEST), a forum that promotes the engineering, science and technology interests of UK naval defence. A news story from UKNEST highlights the outcomes of the conference.


Royal Navy ‘must lead the way’ in the push for Net Zero

The Royal Navy must adopt a leadership role in the push for Net Zero – or risk harming its reputation and reducing its ability to recruit the best people. This was the warning from Admiral Paul Beattie, Director Naval Staff, at the UKNEST Warship Net Zero Conference 2022.

In his keynote speech to more than 100 delegates from across military and civilian aspects of warship design, construction and operation, Beattie said responding to the climate change crisis was a ‘near-time challenge’. “The thing we are absolutely clear on, we have to focus on sustainability,” he said.

The Royal Navy is often seen as a ‘reference navy’ around the world and has a duty to adopt a leadership role even when it is difficult, he said. “The Royal Navy will have to be resilient to the effects of climate change and needs the highest standards in the world. The people who join our service today and who are in our service today, whether military or civilian, absolutely and rightly expect us to address climate change and manage carefully our effect on the globe.”

If the Royal Navy does not keep up with allies and the maritime industry, “it will affect our reputation and our ability to recruit the best people” said Beattie.

The UKNEST Warship Net Zero Conference, held in Portsmouth, was attended by operators, customers, ship designers, ship builders, infrastructure specialists, equipment suppliers, academics, regulatory bodies and Net Zero leaders.

The agenda covered four key topics: operational and support measures; energy saving technologies; energy source; and roadmap net 0. As well as the Royal Navy, DE&S and DSTL, the speakers represented a wide range of companies and interests: Atmo Technology, BAE, BMT, Frazer-Nash, GE, Mott MacDonald and Rolls-Royce; classification societies DNV and Lloyd’s Register; MarRi-UK; and, representing academia, University of Plymouth, University of Portsmouth and UCL.

Admiral Beattie told delegates: “We have to adapt our people, our platforms, our bases, to be able to operate and respond effectively and within the increasingly changing world. The alternatives are quite stark. If we fail to reduce emissions, we will be adding to the impact – and that doesn’t sound very good for defence force.”

Discussing the procurement decisions around Type 32 and Type 83, he said that these platforms would be coming into service in the mid-2030s. On paper they would have a life of 25 years, but experience suggested it could be 50 years.

The shipping industry hasn’t yet picked a “winner” in terms of future fuel, with implications for distribution, storage, etc., he noted. “The air force could change fuel type mid-life. Can you do the same for ships, design in a fuel change? It is worthwhile having that discussion.”

He described sustainability and Net Zero as “a space where we have to be more ambitious and our ambition has to show no bounds”.

Net Zero importance has been gathering pace, interest and priority over the past few years, both nationally and internationally, said conference chair Adam Rees-Leonard, chair of the UKNEST Science & Technology Work Stream.

“Our way of life, stability, trade and ultimately survival are at stake for our future generations. The defence sector has a role to play in addressing this cumulative global crisis,” he said.

The UKNEST conference was organised to explore, test and challenge the requirement for Net Zero warships and infrastructure from a number of viewpoints – “an engineering challenge of the tallest order that could make a phenomenal difference”, said Rees-Leonard.

Among the key points covered by speakers and delegates were:

  • Digitalisation, modularity and autonomy will underpin the Royal Navy of the future
  • Fuel and technology choices could significantly change the design of a warship
  • There are some ‘easy wins’ to be made through technology and operational measures
  • Data underpins everything but often isn’t there, doesn’t work and can’t be shared
  • Digital twinning can model what might be the effect of change before investing
  • The dilemma is having to make decisions today about technology and fuel that will be decided tomorrow. Adopting a flexible approach makes sense today
  • Nuclear shouldn’t be pushed aside – it is an option to consider
  • Replenishment at sea and the supply chain is going to be the crucial factor
  • The Royal Navy should make sure we are not reinventing the wheel – the commercial sector has already found solutions for many of the challenges being discussed
  • This is a transition phase and we have been in transition phases before.

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