(Adds background, comments from minister)
RIO DE JANEIRO, Jan 16 (Reuters) - Brazil must find legal solutions to continue running Petrobras’ projects halted by a corruption probe, or there is a risk of stalling output growth at the state-run oil company, the country’s energy minister Eduardo Braga said on Friday.
Petroleo Brasileiro SA , as Petrobras is formally known, has halted payments to some of the country’s biggest construction firms after nearly two dozen executives at the companies were arrested in November as part of the probe.
Thousands have been laid off at refinery, shipbuilding and other long-term projects as a result, putting Petrobras’ effort to expand production in doubt, Braga told reporters in Rio de Janeiro.
Petrobras production rose 4.4 percent in 2014 after five years of stagnation and decline.
The minister also said that rain levels in Brazil this year are expected to be near 2014 levels. Brazil is suffering its worst drought in at least 80 years, causing water levels at hydro dams to fall and forcing the use of more expensive power from natural gas, diesel-fuel, biomass and other sources. (Reporting by Marta Nogueira; Writing by Jeb Blount; Editing by Alden Bentley and Nick Zieminski)