Cobalt catalysts, and processes employing these inventive catalysts, for hydrocarbon synthesis. The inventive catalyst comprises cobalt on an alumina support and is not promoted with any noble or near noble metals. In one aspect of the invention, the alumina support preferably includes a dopant in an amount effective for increasing the activity of the inventive catalyst. The dopant is preferably a titanium dopant. In another aspect of the invention, the cobalt catalyst is preferably reduced in the presence of hydrogen at a water vapor partial pressure effective to increase the activity of the cobalt catalyst for hydrocarbon synthesis. The water vapor partial pressure is preferably in the range of from 0 to about 0.1 atmospheres.