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EghtesadOnline: President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday inaugurated a gas pipeline project in the city of Zahedan in southeast Sistan-Baluchestan Province.

The 36-inch diameter pipeline stretches 262 km from Iranshahr County to Zahedan bordering Pakistan and Afghanistan, IRNA reported.

The pipeline is seen as a major step toward supplying natural gas to one of the country's deprived and least-developed regions. Zahedan has a population of more than 850,000, according to a 2011 census.

The pipeline is an extension of Iran Gas Trunkline 7 (IGAT-7) that stretches 900 km between Asalouyeh, Bushehr Province, and Iranshahr, pumping natural gas from the giant South Pars field in the Persian Gulf. The project's construction commenced in mid-2013 and cost $200 million, according to Financial Tribune.

"We have delivered today on what was promised to the people of Zahedan two years ago … All cities in Sistan-Baluchestan will gradually start receiving natural gas," Rouhani said before departing for a regional summit in Islamabad scheduled to be held on Wednesday.

Rouhani also inaugurated several other projects via video conference on Tuesday, including the launch of an airline company and the second runway of Zahedan Airport.

Almost two-thirds of Iran's gas output comes from South Pars field which is shared between Iran and Qatar.

The country is expanding its gas supply infrastructure as it looks to raise daily gas production to 1.2 billion cubic meters by 2021 from around 800 million cubic meters.

Mohammad Hassan Tehrani, a local gas official, said on Tuesday that 1,300 kilometers of pipeline is required for supplying natural gas across Zahedan, which is expected to be completed by 2021. Plans call for gas supply to all cities in Sistan-Baluchestan, including Zabol, Khash, Konarak and Chabahar, as well as providing the province’s power plants with gas feedstock.

Officials say supply of gas to the southern province will save $660 million annually by replacing liquefied fuels with gas.

The project will prevent the emission of 1.8 million tons of carbon dioxide, 1,000 tons of carbon monoxide, 8,000 tons of nitrogen oxide and 24,000 tons of sulfur oxide.

Sistan-Baluchestan is the only region in Iran which is largely cut off from the national gas grid, according to published reports.

Companies and utilities in Sistan-Baluchestan, including large cement manufacturing plants and a major water desalination unit, have reportedly been hurt as a result of repeated delays in developing gas supply projects and the increase in price of alternative fuels such as mazut.

The Oil Ministry says an estimated $8.5 billion worth of projects are underway to expand the natural gas network to small towns and villages in remote areas in the southern regions.

Hassan Rouhani Iran gas Iran gas projects Iran's Zahedan