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National Gas Storage Company (NGSC), a subsidiary of National Iranian Gas Company, has commissioned the country's first underground storage facility at the Sarajeh reservoir near the city of Qom.

Trial operations have been commissioned, according to Mehdi Fakou, managing director of the Iranian Central Oil Fields Company (ICOFC), reported Shana news agency.

"By launching the facility and increasing the potentials to meet the gas needs of the residential and industrial sectors, we will not be concerned about gas supply interruption in winter," said Fakou.

Despite Iran's considerable gas reserves, estimated at 29.6 trillion cubic metres, meaning Iran ranks second in the world after Russia, the country still imports an average of 15.2 million cm/d in 2009 from Turkmenistan.

NGSC has been working for the past six years to prepare the reservoir, which will eventually hold more than 1.5 billion cubic metres of natural gas, awarding a total of US$700mn worth of engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contracts to local firms.

Gas will be initially injected into the reservoir at 4.5 million cm/d and gradually increased to 9.5 million cm/d. Tehran-based Oil Turbo Compressor Company won the gas injection portion of the scheme.

Two more local firms, Itok and Chegalesh won the deal to build gas processing and refining facilities at the site. Tehran-based Namvaran Simtech is managing the project on behalf of NGSC.

Iran is currently developing a second gas storage scheme at Yort-eshah, close to Tehran, and a third is planned for the Nasrabad salt structure, southeast of Qom.