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The Diapir Fold Zone of the Carpathians is the most prolific onshore hydrocarbon area in Romania. Structural complexity, mainly due to the presence of salt, combined with poor seismic quality near and below the salt lead to contrasting structural models in the area. To gain insights into the mid-Miocene tectonic evolution, structural geometries and the effects of penetrative strain, we ran dual décollement scaled sandbox models with layered brittle and ductile materials. Results of two analogue models (20 and 33% shortening) revealed that the onset of the deformation sequence was mainly characterized by layer-parallel shortening. As shortening continued, a foreland-verging sequence of supra-salt detachment folds and sub-salt duplexes evolved. The sub-salt duplexes are located directly below the crests of the detachment folds, as the development of these large wavelength anticlines was related to sub-salt deformation. Salt flow was another controlling factor of the deformation style, as salt accumulated in the anticlinal cores and increased the coupling in the supra-salt synclinal axis. Our results offer insights into the effects of salt on the kinematic evolution of this area, help to predict geometries in areas of poor seismic quality, and highlight the important contribution of penetrative strain on deformation and reservoir quality.

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