Billions of dollars of spending on oil and petrochemicals projects have been scrapped or put on hold, with Royal Dutch Shell and UK-based Premier Oil announcing the first big cost-cutting moves of 2015 after a brutal slide in crude prices.

The Anglo-Dutch oil major on Wednesday abandoned plans for one of the world’s biggest petrochemical plants, a $6.5 billion (Dh23.8 billion) project with Qatar Petroleum, blaming “the current economic climate prevailing in the energy industry”.

Its move came as Premier said it would delay a final decision on whether to proceed with the $2 billion Sea Lion project off the Falkland Islands until there was a recovery in oil prices. The company has also cut rates of pay for contractors and other freelance workers engaged in projects in the North Sea and Southeast Asia and is attempting to renegotiate deals with suppliers to trim operating costs.

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