A contract for British energy company Centrica for liquefied natural gas from Qatar is necessary to ensure energy security, the British energy minister said. Centrica announced Wednesday it signed a 4 1/2 year contract to purchase as much as 3 million tons of liquefied natural gas a year from Qatar. "Long-term deals of this kind with reliable suppliers like Qatar are vital for our future energy security," British Energy Minister Michael Fallon said in a statement. The $7 billion deal could secure the energy needs of 13 percent of British households each year. "It is vital that the U.K. has a diverse range of sources of supply to meet its energy requirements," Centrica Chief Executive Officer Sam Laidlaw said. The British economy imported 32 percent of its oil needs in 2012, up from the 25 percent reported for 2012. Gas imports should increase from 49 percent in 2012 to 53 percent in 2020. Most of the British imports of LNG come from Qatar. The country relies on natural gas imported through pipelines from Norway and the Netherlands for the bulk of its imports.