Abstract Retorted shale oils from the Rundle (Queensland) deposit have been hydrotreated in both batch and continuous modes. Two catalysts, a commercial NiMo system and a novel Ru-containing catalyst, have been employed. The new Ru catalyst displayed nitrogen removal and hydrocracking abilities far in excess of the commercial system. Chemical analyses of the products showed that when using the Ru-containing catalysts, the remaining polar materials were phenols, and aniline/pyridine homologues. By contrast, the remaining polar compounds from the NiMo system were predominantly pyrrole and benzopyrrole homologues.