Abstract Over the last decade great interests have been devoted to the application of nanoparticles (NPs) in improving the performance of thermal recovery processes. In this study utilizing NP, a novel method to improve the performance of in situ combustion process is presented. Thermal analysis and kinetic studies have been performed to study how thermocatalytic conversion of crude oil is influenced by NP. From the results of this study a dual catalytic/surface area effect of NP on crude oil pyrolysis and oxidation reactions can be pointed out. NP increase the amount of the fuel that is formed during low temperature oxidation reactions and also pyrolysis of crude oil compounds. NP also catalyze the high temperature combustion reactions by lowering the activation energies. Therefore by increasing the amount of fuel deposited, NP improves the stability and propagation of the combustion front of medium and also lighter crude oils.