Gushing oil leak in the Gulf finally stopped? Update: Yes, but it could leak again

Oil company BP might have finally stopped that catastrophic oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico. According to the Coast Guard, efforts to stop the underwater geyser of gushing oil "seem to be working." Using what's called the "top kill" technique (see diagram above, thanks, New York Times), BP is using a huge 30,000 hp engine mounted aboard a drilling ship to power a pump that's injecting heavy drilling fluid, known as drilling mud, into the well in an attempt to stop the leak.

This is looking good. According to Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, "They've been able to stabilize the wellhead, they're pumping mud down it. They've stopped the hydrocarbons from coming up." But it's not time to celebrate yet. BP officials say that their technique of using tremendous horsepower and pressure to force the oil to stop flowing could fail at any moment.

Update: They kept that 30,000hp engine pumping away until 11:00 last night, but then abruptly shut it down because of "a failure." But this morning (5/28/10), BP reports success anew. According to The New York Times:

"By injecting solid objects as well as heavy drilling fluid into the stricken well leaking oil into the Gulf of Mexico overnight, engineers appeared to have stemmed the flow of oil, Adm. Thad W. Allen of the Coast Guard, the leader of the government effort, said on Friday morning. But he stressed that the next 12 to 18 hours will be "very critical" in permanently stanching what is already the worst oil spill in United States history."

Via NYT and Fast Company