* Oil, gas recovery from old blocks below global levels
* Blocks belong to ONGC, Oil India under scanner
* India grants firms freedom to carve out exploration area
By Nidhi Verma and Neha Dasgupta
NEW DELHI, June 28 (Reuters) - India has intensified monitoring of oil and gas fields handed to state explorers as the South Asian nation seeks to cut dependence on imports and boost local output, oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan said on Wednesday.
India, the world's third biggest oil importer, ships in about 80 percent of its needs and Prime Minister Narendra Modi set a target in 2015 to cut dependence on oil imports to 67 percent by 2020.
The country's oil and gas output has been stagnant for years while the nation's fuel demand is rising with its economic expansion, hitting federal finances with an import bill worth billions of dollars.
The fields, given to Oil and Natural Gas Corp and Oil India Ltd prior to the opening up of the sector to private players, account for about 70 percent of the country's oil and gas output.
"We have now started monitoring those fields and have given new benchmarks to the National Oil Companies to increase production," Pradhan said at an industry event.
The global benchmark of recovery of oil from reservoirs is 35-40 percent and for gas is 55-70 percent, he said.
"In India, the current recovery factors of ONGC and Oil India for crude oil are as low as 27 percent and 23 percent. In the case of natural gas, it is 54 percent and 43 percent for ONGC and Oil India," Pradhan said.
Modi's government has been taking steps to unlock the country's vast reserves and boost foreign investment in the sector. The relaxed rules, among others, allow pricing and marketing freedom to contractors.
Encouraged by the reforms, BP and Reliance Industries earlier this month announced a plan to invest $6 billion to revive a deepwater gas field off the country's east coast.
"A robust captive market is India's strength, and for energy security we have brought these reforms," Pradhan said.
India on Friday announced the launch of a national data repository (NDR) and open acreage licensing programme, giving freedom to firms to carve out areas they want to drill.
However, the delineated area will be put up for auction.
India aims to open up 2.8 million sq kms of the country's sedimentary basins through the open acreage policy to accelerate exploration and production. (Editing by Mark Potter)