Microalgae is projected as a promising third generation biomass feedstock for the production of biofuel and fine chemical intermediates. This study is focused on the selective production of chemicals from Nannochloropsis oculata microalga via catalytic fast pyrolysis technique using Co-Mo/γ-Al2O3 catalyst. Non-catalytic and catalytic fast pyrolysis (CFP) experiments were conducted in an analytical micropyrolyzer coupled with gas chromatograph/mass spectrometer to study the effects of temperature, catalyst-to-algae ratio, and metal loading on support on pyrolysate composition. The catalyst, Co-Mo/γ-Al2O3, was prepared using wetness incipient impregnation method, and characterized for its structure and pore size distribution. Catalyst-to-algae mass ratios used to study the pyrolysate composition and quality were 1:3, 1:1 and 2:1. The major organic compounds from both non-catalytic fast pyrolysis and CFP of the microalga were long chain nitriles, long chain alkanes and alkenes, polyaromatic and monoaromatic hydrocarbons. The optimum fast pyrolysis temperature under non-catalytic conditions that promoted the selectivity of aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbons was 500 °C. The incorporation of Co-Mo/γ-Al2O3 catalyst promoted the formation of specific organic compounds like 1‑isocyanobutane and dimethylketene to the tune of 35% selectivity. The formation pathways for these compounds are proposed to involve dehydration, isomerization, ketonization and CH addition reactions of the amide and carboxylic acid moieties generated from the protein and lipid fractions of the alga. Owing to the low oxygen content in the pyrolysates from CFP, the estimated calorific value of organics in the pyrolysates was higher (33–39 MJ kg−1) than that of the microalga (18 MJ kg−1). © 2018 Elsevier B.V.