The Bureau of Mines studied the conversion of a variety of cellulosic wastes, for example, sawdust, bovine manure, sewage sludge, urban refuse (free of metal and ceramics), etc., to heavy oils. The objective of the investigation was to determine the scope of the reaction and elucidate the chemistry involved. The reactions took place in the presence of synthesis gas and water or carbon monoxide and water under conditions of elevated temperatures and pressures. Waste conversions above 90 pct, often near 99 pct, with oil yields in the range of 40 to 60 pct, were obtained in the temperature range of 250 deg to 425 deg c and pressure range of 1,500 to 4,000 psig. Because mild conditions were sought, most of the experiments were conducted at temperatures of 250 deg to 350 deg c and pressures of 1,500 to 3,000 psig. In general, lower viscosity products were obtained at higher reaction temperatures. Conversions and oil yields were significantly increased by operating in the presence of a high-boiling oil; either anthracene oil or oil recycled from the process was satisfactory. Synthesis gas containing 50 pct carbon monoxide gave satisfactory results as a replacement for carbon monoxide. Cobalt-molybdate-on-alumina catalyst, used with sodium carbonate, gave a product of lower viscosity and lower oxygen content than sodium carbonate used as the sole catalyst. The waste-to-oil process has been successfully investigated in continuous flow equipment as well as in batch autoclaves.