During low-temperature carbonization of lignite, the phenols and other oxygenated compounds appear both in the aqueous-process liquor and in the tar. Measurements of these oxygenated components resulting from low-temperature carbonization may serve as a parameter for the classification of lignites. However, such measurements are complicated by the instability of the tar and the complex nature of some of the acidic substances. Difficulties with the previous methods of analysis are reviewed. The present method outlines separation of aqueous-process liquor from lignite tar in a Fischer retort, followed by determination of phenols and fatty acids in the tar phase. The jacketed tar receiver is washed with 300 milliliter xylol and treated with aqueous caustic washes. Neutral oils are separated from the aqueous alkali solution. It is then extracted with ether and finally acidified with HCl. Solids are filtered off, and phenols and fatty acids are separated by Na/sub 2/CO/sub 3/ solution.