Catalytic mechanism of ethylbenzene dehydrogenation over Fe-Co/Mg(Al)O derived from hydrotalcites has been studied based on the XAFS and XPS catalyst characterization and the FTIR measurements of adsorbed species. Fe-Co/Mg(Al)O showed synergy, whereas Fe-Ni/Mg(Al)O showed no synergy, in the dehydrogenation of ethylbenzene. Ni species were stably incorporated as Ni2+ in the regular sites in periclase and spinel structure in the Fe-Ni/Mg(Al)O. Contrarily, Co species exists as a mixture of Co3+/Co2+ in the Fe-Co/Mg(Al)O and was partially isolated from the regular sites in the structures with increasing the Co content. Co addition enhanced Lewis acidity of Fe3+ active sites by forming Fe3+-O-Co 3+/2+(1/1) bond, resulting in an increase in the activity. FTIR of ethylbenzene adsorbed on the Fe-Co/Mg(Al)O clearly showed formations of C-O bond and π-adsorbed aromatic ring. This suggests that ethylbenzene was strongly adsorbed on the Fe3+ acid sites via π-bonding and the dehydrogenation was initiated by α-H+ abstraction from ethyl group on Mg2+-O2- basic sites, followed by C-O-Mg bond formation. The α-H+ abstraction by O2-(-Mg 2+) was likely followed by β-H abstraction, leading to the formations of styrene and H2. Such catalytic mechanism by the Fe 3+ acid-O2-(-Mg2+) base couple and the Fe 3+/Fe2+ reduction-oxidation cycle was further assisted by Co3+/Co2+, leading to a good catalytic activity for the dehydrogenation of ethylbenzene. © 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.