Abstract The production of H 2 and CO by catalytic partial oxidation of CH 4 at atmospheric pressure has been examined over NiO γ- Al 2O 3 and NiO/La 2O 3/γ-Al 2O 3 catalysts. When NiO loading increased to 17.5 wt.-%, the syngas production over NiO γ- Al 2O 3 is found to increase consistently. In that case, the addition of La 2O 3 can improve the catalytic activity significantly, with a NiO content of more than 17.5 wt.-%, a very small extent of change in the catalytic activity and the selectivity for the methane oxidation to syngas as well as a little effect of La 2O 3 on the activity and the selectivity are observed. Under the condition of high space velocity, the CO 2 and H 2O reforming of CH 4 occurs to a very small extent over reduced 12.5 wt.-% NiO/0.5 wt.-% La 2O 3 γ- Al 2O 3 catalyst. This fact and the results of the effect of space velocity on the methane partial oxidation to syngas suggest that both H 2, CO and CO 2, H 2O are the primary products of the methane oxidation. The results of characterizing 12.5 wt.-% NiO/0.5 wt.-% La 2O 3 γ- Al 2O 3 catalyst reveal that the active form of catalyst is metallic Ni and the promoter La 2O 3 facilitate the reduction of the oxidative nickel.