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Construction work has been suspended at a 1.8bn-real (US$440mn) natural gas processing unit belonging to Brazil's state-run energy giant Petrobras, local media reported on Tuesday.
The unit, known as UPGN, is part of Petrobras' troubled Comperj petrochemical complex being built in Itaboraí, on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro.
According to the Estado de S.Paulo newspaper, 800 workers were laid off by the UPGN construction consortium, comprising Tecna, Iesa and Queiroz Galvão. The latter two are under investigation by federal police as part of Brazil's Lava Jato corruption probe.
UPGN had been scheduled to begin processing natural gas from Petrobras' pre-salt oilfields in 2017.
The consortium said it was forced to halt work due to "unsustainable impacts stemming from the economic crisis and its effects on the exchange rate," according to the newspaper.
The builders reportedly met with Petrobras last week to discuss the energy firm's alleged failure to meet its contractual requirements.
The Rio de Janeiro-based firm's financial position has been aggravated by the plummeting Brazilian real, which has swollen the company's dollar-denominated debt.
DELAYS, COST OVERRUNS
Petrobras is said to be seeking private investment of US$2.3bn to complete Comperj's first stage, which also includes a 165,000b/d refinery.
Last month Petrobras engineering director Roberto Moro told a Rio state parliamentary inquiry into corruption that the amount corresponds to the final 15% of the project's initial phase.
According to Petrobras downstream director Jorge Celestino, who also testified during the inquiry, Comperj's start-up will be postponed until 2020 if an investor is not immediately secured.
Originally scheduled to be fully operational by 2013 at a cost of US$$6.5bn, the complex's construction budget has ballooned to US$47.7bn.