After awarding nearly 50 new licenses to look for hydrocarbons in the North Sea, the British government said to expect great things for the energy sector. The British government doled out 46 new licenses to explore for oil and natural gas in the North Sea as part of the 26th offshore licensing round. British Energy Minister Charles Hendry said, in a statement, that oil and gas contributes about 2 percent to the country\'s gross domestic product, making it crucial to the national economy. \"These continued high levels of interest, and the award today of these licenses, gives me yet more reason to be optimistic for a prosperous 2012 for the U.K. oil and gas sector,\" he added. Hendry said some of the awards were held back because they were designated as \"special areas of conversation\" or \"special protection areas.\" Last month, experts led by researchers at Imperial College, London, called for more \"robust arrangements\" regarding liability while at the same time advocating a more integrated approach to dealing with safety and environmental management of North Sea energy. Hendry, in commenting on the assessment, said the Deepwater Horizon accident in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 serves as a reminder of the risks associated with offshore energy development in the North Sea.