Niel is a Mount House old boy. His father and son also went to Mount House. He studied Mechanical Engineering at Bristol University and Petroleum Engineering at Heriot Watt University. He spent thirty-five years working with Schlumberger and Shell, mainly in the Middle and Far East. His most recent jobs were Development Manager in Syria and Head of Hydrocarbon Recovery Themes in Shell Central Offices, The Hague. He now lives locally but continues to carry out overseas consultancy work in the oil industry.