Although the corrosion of polar sea ice is considered by many to be the foremost indicator of environmental damage, it also may represent the opening the world’s major oil firms have been waiting for, business intelligence provider GlobalData says in a new report.

As the firm’s latest publication explores, global warming has resulted in a dramatic decrease in Arctic ice cover, revealing highly prized drilling locations in a region estimated to hold nearly 22% of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas resources.

The report continues to highlight the area’s enormous hydrocarbon wealth, including 90 Bbbl of oil, 1,669 Tcf of natural gas, and 44 Bbbl of natural gas liquids (NGLs).

Several Arctic nations such as Russia, Canada, and Denmark are staking their claim regarding the extended continental shelf and several national oil companies (NOCs) have undertaken exploration expeditions in the recently exposed region in preparation for what they expect to be highly fruitful oil and gas production activities.

However, the prospect of further exploiting an area that has already been reshaped in part, both directly and indirectly, by the pursuits of Big Oil will most likely be a concern of environmentalists.

Other than the well-known and environmentally detrimental effects of burning fossil fuels, upstream activities also contribute to the corrosion of sea ice through the release of black carbon emitted from transport ships.

Despite these concerns, major oil companies across Russia, Canada, and beyond have been tooling up and forming mutually beneficial partnerships, with the aim of capitalizing on what appears to be highly attractive prospect.