In a closely controlled laboratory retorting system for oil shale, a relationship was developed by the Bureau of Mines between the temperature in the retort and the weight ratio of ethylene to ethane in the gases produced. Reciprocal temperature was shown to be directly proportional to the log ([ethylene]/[ethane]). From this relationship a number, called retorting index, was developed. The retorting index has the dimension of temperature, but its magnitude depends on both temperature and residence time for the reactants in the heated zone in the oil-shale retort. The slopes of the lines relating reciprocal temperature and the logarithm of the ethylene- ethane ratios are nearly constant for each of the retorting processes for which data have been presented. The retorting index should be a valuable tool to control the operation of oil-shale retorts, either aboveground or in situ. If an optimum operating condition can be established, the maintenance of the optimum or the departure from it should be easily monitored by use of the index. Work done in cooperation with the University of Wyoming.