Brazilian state-controlled energy company Petrobras said Wednesday it expects to start producing oil at the Sapinhoa pre-salt field in January.

Construction of the Cidade de Sao Paulo floating production, storage and offloading unit has been completed and the vessel could be sent to Sapinhoa in the coming days, the company said in a statement.

The rig has the capacity to produce 120,000 barrels of oil and 5 million cubic meters (176 million cubic feet) of natural gas per day.

It was hired by the consortium that holds the rights to explore and develop the BM-S-9 block, which is located in the Santos basin and includes Sapinhoa.

Petrobras is the operator of that block with a 45 percent stake, while Britain's BG Group and Repsol Sinopec Brasil have 30 percent and 25 percent interests, respectively.

Sapinhoa is located in Brazil's recently discovered pre-salt frontier, so-named because it is located far beneath the ocean floor under a shifting layer of salt up to two kilometers (1.2-miles) thick.

Distributed across roughly 160,000 sq. kilometers (62,000 sq. miles), that region is projected to hold tens of billions of barrels of light oil and could potentially transform the South American country into a major exporter of crude and derivatives.

The consortium plans to anchor the rig at a spot that is roughly 300 kilometers (185 miles) off the coast of Sao Paulo state and which has a water depth of 2,200 meters (7,210 feet).

The Cidade de Sao Paulo, which will be connected to six producing wells and five water-injection wells, is the first of two rigs that are to be used to develop Sapinhoa.

The second rig, already under construction, is expected to start operating in the second half of 2014. EFE