Shell has signed a deal with Iraq worth $11 billion to build a petrochemicals complex in the southern oil hub of Basra, news agency Reuters reported on Wednesday.

Industry Minister Nasser al-Esawi said the complex is expected to start up operations within five to six years and would make his country the largest petrochemical producer in the Middle East, according to the report.

"The Nibras complex will be one of the largest (foreign) investments (in Iraq) and the most important in the petrochemical sector in the Middle East," Esawi said.

He said the new plant would produce 1.8 million tpy of petrochemical products, according to the report.

A Shell spokesman said the project remains at a very early stage, and the company is not telling when construction work will begin.

"There is no timeline, no further details beyond the fact that the HoA [heads of agreement] has been signed," the company said.