Coal tar, mineral oils, bitumens, coal extraction products, hydrogenation products of coal, oil schists can be atomized and heated with steam to decompose pyrogenetically and form gases rich in olefins which may be heated with or without pressure and with or without catalysts to produce liquid hydrocarbons of low boiling point, some of which may be aromatic. The apparatus should be lined with copper, silica, or ferrosilicon to prevent contact of the bases with iron which causes deposition of soot. Catalysts used may be metal oxides, silica, graphite, active charcoal, mica, pumice, porcelain, barium carbonate, copper, silver, gold, chromium, boron, or their compounds. At temperatures from 300 to 400/sup 0/C, olefins are produced. At higher temperatures, naphthenes and benzene hydrocarbons are produced.