Abstract Transient and steady-state kinetic methods have been applied for characterization of molybdenum oxide catalysts prepared by the MOVS methodology. The results show low temperature activity for propylene (<200 °C) and iso-butane (< 320 °C) partial oxidation. The partial and total oxidation macroscopically appears to occur by the parallel reactions. A temporal positive effect of water on the partial oxidation of propylene was observed, but at the same time the formation of acetone and propanoic acid derivatives decrease the selectivity to propenoic acid. The surface oxygen, propylene, butane and methanol capacities were estimated by dynamic adsorption methods. The role of lattice oxygen in selective oxidation of propylene to propanoic acid, and the competitive adsorption of oxygen and propylene were demonstrated by a pulse method.