In this article, we demonstrate the potential of hard X-ray techniques to characterize catalysts under working conditions. Operando high energy resolution fluorescence detected (HERFD) XANES and valence to core (vtc) X-ray emission spectroscopy (XES) have been used in a spatially-resolved manner to study Cu-zeolite catalysts during the standard-SCR reaction and related model conditions. The results show a gradient in Cu oxidation state and coordination along the catalyst bed as the reactants are consumed. Vtc-XES gives complementary information on the direct adsorption of ammonia at the Cu sites. The structural information on the catalyst shows the suitability of X-ray techniques to understand catalytic reactions and to facilitate catalyst optimization.