This invention is a graded catalyst comprising palladium and also a partial combustion process in which the fuel is partially combusted using that catalyst. The catalyst utilizes a catalytic support structure suitable for high flow rates of combustible gas mixtures through it. The catalyst is situated on the support so that in the flowing gas stream a leading portion of the support has a higher combustion activity, such as by a higher concentration of catalytic metal, than has the trailing portion. The combination of graded catalyst and support provides a low "light off" temperature for the combustible gas (only a low preheat temperature is needed to cause the combustion reaction to begin) and yet does not cause "hot spots" to occur because of excess activity. The combustion gas produced by the catalytic process may be at a temperature below the adiabatic combustive temperature, may be used at that temperature, or fed to other combustion stages for further use in a gas turbine, furnace, boiler, or the like.