Pargas Inc. said yesterday that Kentucky Utilities Co., the major customer of its River Processing coal unit, has notified Pargas that it is suspending its coal contract temporarily because of a breakdown in unloading equipment.

The utility has invoked a clause in the contract that allows the suspension. River Processing is investigating the facts and circumstances related to the breakdown to determine whether the suspension is proper under the terms of the agreement, Pargas officials said.

River Processing ships approximately 75,000 tons of coal a month to the Kentucky utility and would have shipped about 425,000 tons in the first half of this year, said B.F. New, vice president for finance. Because that is "substantially all" of the coal unit's sales, Pargas said its earnings for the year will be affected by the temporary halt in the contract.

River Processing ships coal by train to the Ohio River, where it is loaded into barges. The barges unload at the utility. It is at that point that equipment has broken down, New said.

Kentucky Utilities has advised River Processing that it expects the suspension to last four to six weeks, until the repairs can be made. However, the suspension is indefinite.