When researchers flew over an Energy Transfer LP facility in the Permian Basin of West Texas two months ago, a NASA-designed sensor on their airplane detected a colossal plume of methane pouring into the air.

Over the next two weeks, they returned twice and found large amounts of the powerful greenhouse gas each time. It was just one of many persistent methane emitters discovered by an aerial survey conducted by the Environmental Defense Fund over the largest U.S. oil field in July and August.

The invisible leak was later calculated at more than a ton per hour, with a short-term impact on the atmosphere equivalent to about 47,000 idling cars.