OSLO- Equinor-led Northern Lights venture and Swiss start-up Climeworks will explore the potential for capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere in Norway, the partners said on Tuesday.

Climeworks provides direct carbon capture technology, while Northern Lights, which also includes Shell  and Total, plans to store CO2 in a geological formation under the seabed off Norway's coast.

Norway's Oil and Energy Minister Tina Bru said the plan responded to a growing list of potential customers for the Northern Lights site which could store up to 1.5 million tonnes of CO2 per year from 2024.

Direct carbon capture could help to offset unavoidable emissions, such as from agriculture, which cannot be captured by using another method, Climeworks Chief Executive Christoph Gebald said in an online presentation.

Northern Lights is a part of Norway's ambition to develop a full-scale carbon capture and storage chain, dubbed Longship after the vessels used by Vikings.

The government will cover about two-thirds of the 25.1 billion crowns ($2.96 billion) costs. 

The plan includes a 400,000 tonne-per-year carbon capture installation at a cement plant run by Germany's HeidelbergCement  in southern Norway and potentially a second capture plant in Oslo operated by Finnish utility Fortum .

The Northern Lights venture said CO2 storage capacity could be potentially expanded to 5 million tonnes per year in the future, depending on demand.

Bru said Norway had hoped the Northern Lights storage could encourage more CO2 capture projects in Europe, helping achieve the climate goals.

(Reporting by Nerijus Adomaitis and Nora Buli; Editing by Edmund Blair) ((nerijus.adomaitis@thomsonreuters.com; +47 9027 6699; Reuters Messaging: nerijus.adomaitis.thomsonreuters@reuters.net))